These notes are not intended to be a formal report or action plan, merely a summary of the thoughts and questions raised on the day (at least those I managed to scribble down or interpret from the discussion groups’ handwriting!)
Andrew Mawson: The Social Entrepreneur: Making Communities Work
Paul Bollard: Community and Ministry
Paul Bollard: The Church at the Centre of the City
Community Needs in Central Peterborough: Where can the churches fit?
Gillian Beasley OBE, CEO Peterborough City Council
The Headmaster of Hampton junior school describes Peterborough as a city in disguise – the leafy green of the parkways, but as soon as you turn off you can see high levels of deprivation.
On 9 December 2009 The Audit Commission issued “The Comprehensive Area Assessment” for Peterborough, the Government’s summary of life in Peterborough (available via Peterborough City Council website / One Place website). Many of these thoughts are extracted from that report:
a) Growth - the Government have designated Peterborough to be a growth area – 25,000 new homes, 20,000 new jobs.
b) Employment – largely distribution and service industry
c) People - the people of Peterborough have a wide variety of backgrounds and lifestyles including 6 – 20,000 asylum seekers (half of the world’s nationalities and 80 to 100 languages are in Peterborough). Whilst the asylum seekers are contributing to the economic welfare of the city, there are increasing demands on public services, which receive minimal additional funding. The Central Ward is one of the most diverse in the country. One GP practice in New England processes 40 to 50 new registrations from each week (many are also leaving). One night on a homeless count, 2 coaches arrived from Poland. 63 nationalities attend All Souls church services.
d) Education - standards are below the national average but are increasing.
e) Health - we live shorter and less healthy lives, but again this is improving. A man in Central Peterborough is likely to live 4 to 7 years less than someone in South Cambridgeshire.
f) Crime - we have generally high crime levels (particularly alcohol and sexually related crimes) but the youth offending team is performing well.
g) Environment - there is a high level of public engagement in environmental issues e.g. recycling and public transport.
h) Economy - the recession has had a more significant impact from the recession than many other areas.
i) City centre development – the big redevelopments in the City Centre have been hit by the recession, and the focus is now on two projects:
- the South Bank which is now coming together as the Council now owns all the property.
- North Westgate / station quarter combined development should be recommencing later this year.
Have we lost sight of real people – if we did would we say “We never realised”.
How do we reconnect? How do we understand how people around us are living?
What can churches do? PCC officers struggled to really answer that question when asked by Gillian Beasley. But, whatever it is, we must do it together.
Thoughts from John Rackley / Andrew Mawson
Unless children receive appropriate support there can be irreparable damage before they are 3 years old.
Leave ourselves behind – go outside into the world and find out what is happening – discover how we can support those who need help.
There is a constant cycle of running the church – priorities of today shape the possibility for the future. What future do we want?
One church – 100 uses, Lord Mawson
We are living in an enterprise / global culture, but have lost sight of what is happening at the end of our street.
Paul Preston, who brought McDonalds to the UK spent a long time making sure that their first shop was right e.g. they had the right tiles, that wouldn’t break after just a few months. Once the detail of one place was perfected, only then was it replicated. Today we have multi million pound schemes that often do not last or have no long term planning
The journey of the Bromley by Bow Centre (website www.bbbc.org.uk)
Twenty six years ago Andrew Mawson became responsible for a 200 seat, 120 year old, run down church building in the middle of a “deprived” area with 12 elderly people and £400 in the bank. Having decided not to run away or stay in bed and get depressed or indeed ‘become an expert’ by studying and researching the poor, he began to” loiter with intent” and to find out what was really happening:
a) Residents of the area received many leaflets from churches, political parties etc. making promises of a better life, but there was never any action.
b) The voluntary sector / the churches weren’t helping Karen and her children on the 7th floor of a tower block.
c) The church gave the building away to the community, saying yes to anyone who wanted to use it.
d) A dance teacher arrived – a partnership business deal was struck. Parents, despite their poverty, wanted the best for their children and were willing to pay. Within 7 years they had grown to 8 staff, 150 children and have their own premises.
e) A nursery running in a living room became a partnership with the church – the ‘innards’ were ripped out of the church, reducing the space for traditional church to 40 seats, not 200. The area had the largest artistic community outside of New York and therefore an art gallery was created around the ‘worship’ space. Artists were allowed to use the building as long as they taught children and gave 10% of the proceeds of their sales back to the church project.
f) Social services did not support the concept, until a new entrepreneurial chief exec arrived. Many people are too busy ticking boxes to see the person.
g) Gradually, the community began to realise that they could trust the church and that the church did have integrity.
h) Many were waiting for the Council to sort out their lives.
i) Using community volunteers, a park was rejuvenated and ‘the butterflies started to arrive’.
j) Many didn’t need a professional social worker – they needed a good mother or someone to help them become a good mother.
k) An enterprise culture was developed that was at odds with the bureaucratic systems and policies.
l) Now, 150 businesses operate from the site. There is a health centre that includes an art gallery that has activities including ‘how to set up in business’.
Every human being is creative – so we should find out what troubled people are passionate about.
We should look at people NOT systems, strategies and reports.
Would we put our children in the same nursery as those from “deprived” backgrounds?
The church is failing because it has lost its relationship with those outside.
Many people in churches are experts in the ‘Encyclopaedia of 1,000 reasons why things won’t work’.
Are we still non-conformist and breaking the rules? Our founders were in prison!
How do we move money (because time is money) from meetings into the community.
We must learn by doing, not by theorising and report writing.
Churches and Local Authorities are generally around for a long time – reports come and go.
We need the entrepreneurial skills required to make “The Word become flesh” – but we also need to get the nuts and bolts details right.
What talent is around us that nobody notices.
Churches should make beautiful places – not stuffed with notices.
Curved buildings soften the way we look.
We need to sort out our family affairs (between the churches) before working with the local community.
The formula: church assets / buildings + the community + entrepreneurship + the Council
We can’t do this stuff unless we take the decision making process out of the church into something like a community interest company.
The place of the City Centre Church – has it a future?
Rev John Rackley
What can we receive from our church traditions that can serve the present and we can give to the future? For example, the Baptist tradition:
What is toxic & poisonous? Focussed only on the gathering of believers? Our isolationism and individualistic perspective on salvation? Autonomous or stubbornly independent?
What is life giving and healthy? We gather, listen to Christ, interpret, if the rule isn’t right, we ignore it?
The theology of the child
Jesus, with a group of pontificating men, asks “Who is the greatest?”. Jesus answer was the silent child, who they looked down on.
The silent child is a metaphor for the church – we are looked down on and not taken seriously.
The church should think of itself as a powerless child NOT a powerful parent i.e. a child’s stubbornness, learning nature and tendency to ask awkward questions and NOT telling others to ‘come to where we are’.
Questions / comments
Mutli-cultural problems in Peterborough – we need to connect and talk at grass roots level, we need to do challenge projects together and break beyond the theory of race.
How do you gather believers in this social enterprise culture? How do we retain Christian belief in a multi cultural / social enterprise culture?
Where does the church find the business brains? Start small! (the Building Society movement began with Baptists)
How do we let the creative talent rise? How do we choose between the many great ideas? Ask people ‘what is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do in life that you’ve never dared?
We need to get our MPs and policy makers to see how difficult it is to build a building etc. so that they go back to Parliament and stop writing policy documents.
Entrepreneurs live in a 15 month cycle; councils in a 15 year cycle – what about churches??
Bible colleges need to teach entrepreneurship.
Is the attitude of many in our churches that” what is there at the moment will see us out”.
Do we lack confidence in the motivating power of the gospel?
We need to teach / immerse ourselves in Jesus of Nazareth’s teaching on the
Who do we, as church, really need to listen to today? John Bell in an interview answered without pause “asylum seekers’ – as Jesus did (Samaritan women, Canaanite women).
1. St Johns
The church was built in 1407 prior to divisions in the church, built for the people of Peterborough. It became the church of those living above shops in the city centre and those immediately west of the centre – now only 1/3 of the congregation live in the parish.
b) Current position
St Johns could be described as a church with a recruitment problem or alternatively, a jewel in the crown in the city.
It has excellent acoustics for lectures and concerts but no facilities, nothing on which to build a ministry of hospitality, and this has been wrestled with since 1910!
c) What’s happening?
In partnership with the City Council, and following the opening of St John’s square, there are possibilities of putting in toilets, more welcoming, glazed doors, removal of the railings, steps from the square towards the church - £300,000 funding is required, and hopefully being sourced from the public sector and grants.
Are these plans big enough? Can
St John’s become THE arts and concert venue for the City?
2. Love came down at Christmas shop
Peterborough was one of 47 church groups around the country involved in the” Get in the Picture” project. It was open for 12 part days, over a 3 week period, and over 400 photographs were taken.
This, again, was a partnership effort – involving Queensgate (rent free premises), Council (rates free), Network Peterborough, business community as well as 75 volunteers from the churches.
There were a myriad of detail to be worked through – risk assessments, insurance, safety.
It was all worth it – a brief respite for busy shoppers, a hot drink for the homeless, someone for people to chat to, £150 raised for Project Hosanna (from donations as we were not charging). The shop saw Chris Duffett, an evangelist getting alongside people, live babies in the crib, teenagers encouraging others to get involved, joy and happiness in the Christmas period, a prayer tree, an artistic competition and display.
What will next year bring?
3. The Inspiration Studio
This project arose from a number of strands coming together:
- an inter-generational forum identified that youth wanted a space in the city centre on a Saturday to meet other generations
- the police discussing intimidation between groups of young people in Queensgate, particularly on a Saturday afternoon
- the churches looking at outreach to the youngsters in our city
The Studio (Queensgate shop on Long Causeway, just up from the Christmas shop) will be manned by trained Council youth workers, a church youth worker, church volunteers, young people and the police.
The young people will be using their creative skills, question other people – aiming to build bridges, change perceptions of generations, the Council, the police and the church.
4. Future jobs fund
The Christmas shop will be used by the future jobs fund until March, a government led initiative creating jobs for 18 to 24 year olds not in education or training. Again, this project is being run by the Council (Caroline & Danny) and will be offering advice and counselling on drugs, debt as well as trying to find placements in work. It is hoped that there will be some volunteers from the churches to offer general assistance and someone to talk to, for those who go in.
Question 1 - How can our ‘plant’ be in use 24/7 or much more than at present?
Westgate – buildings are quite well used, including CROPS, bookshop, luncheon club and agencies
St Johns – facilities needed to remove more pews, create flexibility and smaller rooms
St Marks – tension business / outreach, funds for the maintenance of plant
Connecting with people?
Service level agreements / hospitality
Park Road – flexible (can move chairs out)
- multiple use creates difficulties – noise, wear and tear
- Can groups get together to work together
- Loss leaders on letting agreements – business, marketing, Sainsburys prop up charities e.g. Hosanna Project
- Cities – big, hubs? Worship, eclectic, mind set
- No relationship between the church congregation and groups using the facilities
- Groups – is it an irrelevance that they happen to be using a church building?
- Some agencies are Christian and expect ‘standards’ of church buildings and people
- How small does a church have to get to be not sustainable? Balancing the books
- Church is people – people have names
- Hard and soft data
Question 2 - How do we together use our church buildings to best advantage for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
Make more public space in our premises, including outdoors, life “The Cloisters” at Bromley-by-Bow – benches in All Souls gardens
Ask whether we should be worshipping in separate buildings – is it a time to plan for union?
Organise more activities as CTICP that bring people together, like musical concerts
Provide more free spaces for small charities in Peterborough and work with them to achieve their aims
Revamp church buildings, including outbuildings, for more flexible use
Have a church lettings agency to jointly market our facilities to the town – defined objectives, defined remuneration for the church
Should the question be “for the sake of the people of Peterborough” i.e. not just, though including, “the Kingdom of God”
We can’t all do everything – we should develop our own niches given the opportunities of our buildings
Churches open from 7.30 until dark 6 days – services every day, some in the morning, some in the evening
We need staff on hand because of security issues as we are in an area of social deprivation and difficulty
Language groups / parenting skills / friendship groups / women’s groups
Use St Johns as a cross-denomination youth church (like St Lawrence’s in Reading)
Knock them all down and only have one massive multi use community building
Develop openness / welcoming / hospitality whilst retaining the historical beauty / security / sense of worship
Open them up and allow people with good ideas for community ‘blessing’ to use them
Isolate smaller areas within our church buildings
Question 3 - What are the unmet material and spiritual needs in our city centre?
Shelter, housing and food – funding for St Theresa’s / encampments of homeless people
Work and employment
Hope and aspiration
Connectedness, meaning and community
A need for harmony between different communities – a need to be welcoming to others
A need to break down barriers including those within the churches
Isolated groups, including the elderly
Meals for vulnerable people
Support for parents – access for facilities
Art, music, drama, dance, creativity
Sports facilities – including access, cost
Safety, including perception of safety
Question 4 - How do we (with other agencies) address these needs today?
Provide a facilitating space for the arts e.g. at St Johns
Address issues around access and cost of facilities
Bus services to the city centre
General access to the city centre, including car-parking – the city centre is dark and quiet at nights, so make it brighter, with CCTV and visible police presence
Question 5 - What does it mean to be a city centre church?
Lead by example
Re-affirm values of integrity and trust
Common good – transparency
Strengthen current projects – how is this realised / released?
Being strong in faith and vision – a central vision – business planning
Being open, welcoming, accepting and flexible
Relate the gospel to the economic, civic and cultural powers
Oneness – to influence the city
To be a church for a diverse community
To bear witness
We don’t have a ready made congregation on our doorstep, as the properties above the shops are not yet occupied.
We are at the heart of the community and visited by people from all over the UK and further afield.
Question 6 - How can we work together ‘joined up’ as ‘Churches Together in Central Peterborough’ more closely to fulfil our purpose?
Define exactly what our purpose is – and communicate it more widely
Share expertise, premises, resources
Make the current facilities available to a wider audience
Use the internet as a method to discuss things like instant messages to discuss topics
Create a charity to deliver and develop children’s and youth work in the city centre and surrounding communities
Do more short projects / activities together, so that trust develops and invite people who don’t go to church to join in
Be brave – do things – don’t let CTICP become another bureaucracy
We have to recognise that most people’s loyalty is to the local church – only a minority can be encouraged to think / participate more widely
Are we really willing to share people when we each feel we are short of human resources
Be aware of our own and each other’s skills, talents and weaknesses
Commit money to put people through the relevant courses to get the right certificates etc. needed in today’s age.
Question 7 - Why is it that our churches can be so caring about our people but this doesn’t seem to attract many newcomers?
We are insular and not outward looking enough – too much like a club
Is this just church people?
We don’t offer things that interest people enough
I wonder whether………..
….. we could employ someone for coordination of resources.
….. we’re willing to sacrifice our own church resources to enable another church to achieve its vision and ministry.
….. we can do more short term projects – to help us ‘get it right’
….. we can market successful ideas – media interest – they must be good quality and we may be able to charge.
….. we are frightened of ‘success’ or of its publicity; of making a profit, of being entrepreneurial. Church buildings being offered for free actually depresses the economic market.
….. Love Came Down At Christmas would have been successful in a church building.
….. our buildings are welcoming, especially to young people?
….. our buildings could be used more in daily life?
….. we can connect to the real lives, to today’s culture
….. we can charge the going rate for some of the things we do
….. we need so many buildings
….. St Johns could be the space for Christianity and the Arts, and if so, whether other churches would be behind this.
…. we can deal with the ‘civil servants’ in our churches; whether, when the rules aren’t right, we can work out how to get past them.
1. Andrew Mawson
Even the most powerful (Westminster) are powerless – the local individual with passion and who actually does things has power – power is in the hands of those who dare to take risks.
The current openness between Council and churches in Peterborough is great – it’s not happening everywhere, but there may only be a window of opportunity for partnership and action
All the right people are already in place – we just need to join the dots.
We need St Johns to sort out the toilets quickly.
Jesus was a carpenter – ran a small business
2. John Rackley
We need to become deeper people – deeper listeners
Those who are growing older need to have a positive relationship with a child – discover the difference between being elderly (the route to despair) and being an elder (providing the dignity deserved)
We need to provide wisdom out of our great traditions – but in humility, not in arrogance
Are we too complicated in our church life?
How can we, as city centre churches, meet and relate to those who are there, and contribute to the spiritual life of the city?
Are our churches museums or living places?
Why would we consider doing a lot of these things – is it because we want more members, or is it because we want to engage with our community.
Consider the theology of service – being known for what we do.
3. Gillian Beasley
What is the mark of a city centre church? What is the mark of our city centre? A crossroads where all things meet, the centre of power, the centre of money?
Gillian Beasley would like the church to answer the question – “What do we actually want from the Council in order to contribute to the spiritual life of the city?”
Let’s “Listen to what we have heard”