What do churches in poorer and more affluent areas each learn about tackling poverty when they work together? This Diocese of Lichfield project (jointly funded by St Peter’s Saltley Trust and Church Action on Poverty) aimed to find out…
The Diocese of Lichfield is one of the largest in the Church of England, including areas of contrasting socio-economic demographics. In 2013, the diocesan Transforming Communities department began a project to form partnerships of mutual learning and support between parishes from richer and poorer localities. Church Action on Poverty provided consultancy, and a grant from the Saltley Trust enabled a part-time project worker to be employed.
Six core churches were identified as potential participants, serving localities in areas of deprivation. Four of these progressed to form partnerships with churches from more affluent backgrounds. These were Tividale with Kinver, Ashmore Park with Pattingham, Fulbrook with Streetly, and Hanley with Barlaston. It was noted that the Bishop of Ebbsfleet provides oversight for two of the core parishes, whilst all four partner churches had women incumbents.
The partner church co-ordinator facilitated listening exercises within each of the eight participating churches. Parishes visited each other, shared in worship, held join meetings and supported each other’s social events. Representatives from each of the four pairings were invited to centrally organised training seminars, led by the consultant from Church Action on Poverty.
Those participating in the process acknowledged the learning gained through their relationships, whilst being honest in how difficult it was to sustain what was a very challenging experience. This was the key role for the co-ordinator, in providing encouragement and drawing out the lessons to be learnt.
At the end of the first year, in June 2014, the partners held a public meeting at which they talked about their mutual learning. A short video reports on some of the stories shared that day. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCpKO1Pr1u8..
After the first year of our Close the Gap project, “For Richer, for Poorer”, the diocesan mission fund was able to fund the post of the partner church coordinator for a second year, and indeed to increase her hours. The impact of this work, whilst profound, only slowly becomes apparent. In this respect, the initial funding of £5,000 enabled us to employ some-one at the start of the project, following which others were able to see its value and provide continuity funding.
The final report on this project is available from the Diocese of Lichfield here, and also from the Saltley Trust publications page, as a project which formerly received funding from the Trust.