The Aegies Associates News & Blog Section
An event held in the North East on Friday (June 15) was a rallying cry for people engaged in community social action.
Organised by the Faith in our Community (FIC) Partnership Steering Group, which is backed by the Church of England Diocese of Durham, the event will run at the Hetton & Eppleton Community Hall, Office Place, Hetton-le-Hole, the launch of phase two of the project.
Key Note Speaker Professor Hilary Russell from Liverpool John Moores University addressed the group talking about recent research findings based on a background of the Government’s ‘Big Society’ initiative. She said: “The main purpose of the study was to act as a catalyst in bringing together current best practice in Christian care in local communities with the resources and knowledge base needed to multiply those good works across the country.”
“The Government aim is to move power away from central government and give it to local communities and individuals and achieve a more participative society. In principle, the main strands of the idea should encourage people not only in churches, but in the voluntary and community sector as a whole, in doing so they should foster a culture of voluntarism and philanthropy and promoting social action; give people a greater say in decisions affecting their area and services; develop new forms of public service delivery including the use of charities and social enterprises. I say ‘in principle’. In practice, there has been considerable fuzziness around the concept and in many ways it has been overshadowed by the economic downturn and the introduction of austerity measures.
The findings of the research study showed that the extent and diversity of Christian community action that there is out there was hugely impressive a point that Hilary expanded on saying: “The sheer quantity and quality of dedication and commitment from volunteers and staff on projects such as the Faith In Our Community projects in Durham and the North East, is outstanding. With those involved even seeing this as an integral part of their discipleship. As one person said, this is ‘A professionally run project that is also a work of the heart.’ A recurrent theme was of trustees, staff and volunteers all ‘going the extra mile’
“The overriding message from our study is that faith based community engagement enthuses people to work together for the common good of all our communities, because seeing people around you doing work that makes a difference enthuses others; nothing succeeds better than seeing success itself.”
The Archdeacon of Sunderland, the Ven Stuart Bain, said: “This has been an occasion to affirm, support and encourage one another as we step out in faith, seeking to transform our communities.
“The event was designed to allow people to meet those from other FIC projects to share visions, hopes and plans.
“Past experience of FIC learning events is that those who come are enthused and energised , receiving affirmation and encouragement and this was exactly the outcome of this phase two launch.
Also speaking at the launch was Rowena Francis ‘The Moderator of The United Reformed Church Northern Synod’ who opened proceedings getting the assembled group to work together through a series of ice breaking activities; demonstrating the coming together and collective sharing as the basis of community based projects.
FIC Project Officer Bernadette Askins said: “ It great to see so many people here today, the feedback from some of the projects in phase one and to hear something of some of the plans for projects that might come out of FIC phase two. The overall sense that we are making a real difference was amazing.”
Jim Robertson, A member of the FIC Steering Group said: “Given the current economic situation, the challenges facing the Diocese and FIC two projects are even greater than earlier times. However the FIC one projects have illustrated the huge potential contribution of the faith communities in both pastoral and prophetic actions.
“The FIC project illustrated further that our communities in the NE are a rich context for learning the real life skills and behaviours that make a difference in society and how the churches might learn from these.”