Organising for Growth

Milton Keynes has become a significant centre for work on Community Organising.  Since we set up Citizens MK in 2010 we have learned a lot about how community organising can help us make a difference in our city.  We’ve brought diverse communities together, welcomed refugees, got businesses to sign up to the Real Living Wage and spoken out about Hate Crime.  It’s been exciting to make a difference rather than just talk about making a difference…

Community Organising is good for serving our communities, but there is also a lot of evidence that it can help grow churches – in depth, impact and numbers.  In London, there has been a lot of work on “congregational development” and a number of churches have been recognised as “Resource Churches” because of the way they have used organising to grow their congregations.

The Centre for Theology and Community in East London is based at St George-in-the-East where Fr Angus Ritchie both teaches and practices community organising from a Christian perspective.  There’s a great YouTube video that tells their story:

One of the important strands that have shaped Community Organising in the UK and US has been the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  These remind us that it is the values that we hold that shape our action.  Churches therefore have something to offer beyond an extra pair of hands. The ten principles of Catholic Social Teaching are:

  1. Dignity of the Human Person 
  2. Common Good and Community 
  3. Option for the Poor
  4. Rights and Responsibilities 
  5. Role of Government and Subsidiarity 
  6. Economic Justice  
  7. Stewardship of God’s Creation 
  8. Promotion of Peace and Disarmament 
  9. Participation 
  10. Global Solidarity and Development

Bishop Adrian Newman spoke about Catholic Social Teaching at the National Deaneries Network Conference this year.  Bp Adrian was Bishop of Stepney and a trustee of Citizens UK.  His parents also lived in Milton Keynes in their later days. His talk is one of the most downloaded videos on the NDN web site:

During the past year, Fr Angus and Bp Adrian have been working with Matthew Bolton (now Executive Director of Citizens UK) to run a series of three symposiums on the three quinquennial goals of the Church of England:

  1. Serving the Common Good
  2. Growing the Church
  3. Re-imagining Ministry

I was lucky enough to be at two of these – alongside people from MK and Oxford Diocese.  It was encouraging to hear how churches have been addressing these challenges using the techniques and principles which are at the heart of organising.  From my perspective, I am encouraged by the fact we have a model which is rooted in theology, while presenting a radical alternative to the managerial-leadership model often assumed as the only option for growing churches…

In Milton Keynes, we have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to the potential of organising as a tool for Church growth.  I’ve been using some form of organising for over twenty years and really love the insights that I’m learning from the Citizens family.  I use the skills I’ve learned every day, and am a big fan.  I am struck by the model of “pastor as organiser” and it’s the way I try to operate.  Most of the time it wouldn’t be obvious to others but I know how significant it has been for me.

John Robertson has been running a course called “Leading for a Change” which follows the pattern of a two-day course in Community Organising.  This course has been specifically designed to equip lay leaders, and the feed-back has been pretty good.  A key element to this course is the concept of Salvation History and the way God invites us to join him in a mission of transformation – both within the Church and the World.

I’m really keen that we take these ideas to the next level.  Milton Keynes is already a leader when it comes to organising in the UK, but I’d like us to be a front-runner when it comes to organising for church growth.  I think this is something that we could excel in – and offer to the wider church.  

I suspect some people think this is just another “initiative” or short-lived “fad” but I genuinely believe that there are important lessons from organising which would help us build a more Christ-like Church.

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Enhancing and Resourcing the Rural Church

An implementation Steering Group has recently been established to take the above programme forward.  With Glyn Evans as Chair and Charles Chadwick as Executive Secretary, the team is also looking to recruit 3 new lay members, one from each of the 3 rural Archdeaconries.  The Steering Group has therefore asked us to draw your attention to 2 events to unveil the work of the project, and encourage you to consider attending.  These will be held on Saturday 17 June in Buckinghamshire, and Saturday 24 June in Oxfordshire. Posters will be sent out shortly to all rural benefices and parishes and the events will also appear on e-news in due course, but do make a note of these dates now.

As we know, the Diocese of Oxford is one of the largest dioceses in the country. 30% of its parishes have a population of under 500.  If the Countryside Commission’s definition of a rural place, where the population is under 3,000, is used, 50% of parishes qualify as rural. Since late 2014 a small working group, set up by the Board of Mission, has been considering many of the facets of how the rural church expresses itself, how it is experienced, and how it may be enhanced and resourced for the future.

At the start of 2017 the Board of Mission endorsed the report of the working group which has a series of recommendations that address nine identified areas which impinge on the life and flourishing of the rural church:

  • Addressing the environment, context and well-being of those who serve in a rural context
  • Raising vocations
  • Ensuring the future of church buildings
  • Exploring different models of governance in Multi Parish Benefices
  • Strengthening finance
  • Supporting rural schools
  • Engaging with the changes new housing brings
  • Training for people in leadership roles
  • Replenishing the rural church for the future

These recommendations are not intended to be a ‘top down’ programme, rather they are designed to offer thinking and resources for the rural church across the diocese. To that end we are calling the ongoing work The Enhancing and Resourcing the Rural Church programme.


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Quiz In Aid of The Food Bank: Saturday 11 March 2017 at 7.00pm

Pat Hodges (‘Miss Quiz’) and her husband Neil do a wonderful job in organising quizzes in support of different charities.  Although they usually take place at St Thomas’s, Simpson, or Simpson Village Hall, the next two are at different venues.  The first one – for the benefit of the Food Bank – will take place at THE HOLIDAY INN in Central Milton Keynes, on Saturday 11 March 2017, starting at 7.00pm.

The cost will be £8.00 per person.  A selection of savouries will be available on each table.  Please Note: You cannot bring your own drinks to this event!

If you would like to come along, please contact Pat at missquiz@sky.com or call 01908-644785.  Maximum 8 per table, but don’t be put off coming even if you’re on your own.  Pat does a great job of  putting people together.

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Christian Healing Mission Day at Whaddon Way Church: 4 November 2017

Want to know more about God’s healing?

Then ……

SAVE THIS DATE

“Letting the Kingdom Come”

SATURDAY 4 NOVEMBER 2017

From 10am to 4pm

At Whaddon Way Church, Bletchley

Milton Keynes

 

A great day of teaching with the

Christian Healing Mission.

Please put this diary. Further information to follow.

 

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Refugees Welcome Supporters Meeting

Our first regular ‘supporters meeting’ was hosted by Whaddon Way Church in Bletchley. This was an opportunity to learn about the work of the British Red Cross who are leading the integration work with Syrian Refugees in Milton Keynes. Some of the Syrian Refugees were present to talk about their own hopes for the future.

We also had a presentation from a new project from Oxford called Sanctuary Hosting, who are hoping to expand to Milton Keynes. This project links vulnerable migrants with short- or medium-term accommodation. As the project grows, we’ll keep you informed. In the meantime, see https://oxford.cityofsanctuary.org/host-oxford

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