The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Churches: Agents for social transformation

30th July 2013

Heather Keates, CEO, Community Money Advice speaks on viewing the Church as not only a place of worship, but a thriving hub benefiting local community

Chatting with an Anglican vicar last week I was fascinated to hear his views on how the Church could be the agent for social transformation. His understanding was that, as pews became established within churches the perception of these buildings changed from being community resources for the benefit of everyone to solely being places of worship.

In the 21st century, there is an ideal opportunity for churches to be seen as both places of worship and community resources: a thriving hub that is of real benefit to local residents.

When we look at the needs of our nation as outlined in Holistic Mission: Social Action and the Church of England’s introduction it can appear overwhelming. Yet at the heart of every community, big or small, rural, suburban or urban are parish churches.

These churches are ideally placed to understand the unique needs of their communities and could look to facilitate, help and support projects that would address these needs.

Inevitably, when needs have been identified the question of resources comes up. Sadly I have on occasion been informed that, until the necessary funds are available to address the repair bills of church buildings, other projects cannot be embarked upon. Are we really saying that bricks and mortar are a higher priority than putting back together broken lives? There has to be a place for both and the policy recommendations within Holistic Mission: Social Action and the Church of England should do just this. Ironing out discrepancies between what can be done in one parish and not in a neighbouring parish will enable joint ventures to flourish if churches have the desire to fulfil Isaiah 61.

  • Proclaiming good news to the poor
  • Binding up the broken hearted
  • Proclaiming freedom
  • Comforting those that mourn
  • Providing for those that grieve

Every church has an opportunity to make a real difference whether it be through supporting small projects such as one to one befriending schemes, shared lunches, afternoon teas or helping establish friendship benches in the local primary school playgrounds to large projects such as establishing credit unions, food banks and debt advice centres. Very often these projects can work best with several churches working together to serve their local area showing church unity and demonstrating God’s love. For individuals the results may be as simple as being able to sleep at night after having shared a problem for the first time, for others it may be access to a proper meal for the first time in months and others the chance to start again financially.

This requires the Church to understand the resources they have to offer – people, finances and buildings, however small. Once these have been identified then they are in a position to become transformative institutions that genuinely make a difference to people, their communities and the nation as a whole.

Heather Keates was an adviser on ResPublica’s most recent report, Holistic Mission: Social action and the Church of England.

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