The Diocese of London has released new research assessing for the first time the impact of churches’ voluntary and community activities in the Diocese of London. The analysis finds that activities, staff and volunteer time amount to an estimated total contribution of £33 million annually across London, even without taking into account that churches also supply their own buildings and spaces to host 89% of projects. In the Diocese of London, there are 1,000 community projects with 10,000 volunteers that benefit an estimated 200,000 Londoners annually. In addition, churches raise £17million per year in order to carry out these initiatives.
The Church of England, once described by William Temple as “the only organisation that exists for the sake of its non-members”, has a long-standing tradition of providing welfare and working to bring about change in society. A recent report by the thinktank ResPublica found that 79% of Anglican churchgoers regularly volunteer.
The ‘Beyond Sundays‘ report provides a glimpse of the many individual ways in which churches in London are already working with their communities to put into practice Capital Vision 2020, the Diocese of London’s strategic plan for serving London by committing to be more ‘confident, compassionate and creative’.
Among the examples of community projects highlighted in ‘Beyond Sundays’ are:
Hammersmith IntoUniversity Centre
IntoUniversity was originally a Church of England parish initiative set up with the conviction that every child deserves the best start in life. Its purpose is to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the same opportunities as those from better off families by providing support and guidance to those with the potential to move into Higher Education but, due to their background, may struggle to do so. Launched in 2002 at The Clement James Centre in West London, the project initially reached out to around 1000 local young people every year. Having grown significantly over the last ten years, IntoUniversity now has 11 centres across London and by the end of 2013 will provide much-needed support to around 10,000 young people every year. Its Hammersmith centre has been a huge success, with a waiting list of young people eager to benefit from its support. Last year 77% of its school leavers achieved a university place.
Hugh Rayment-Pickard, Director of Development at IntoUniversity, commented:
“I am immensely proud of the contribution IntoUniversity has made to thousands of lives in Hammersmith and across London. We are a project that has succeeded due to a strong and long-standing synergy with church parishes across the Capital and we are excited about our continued growth and reach into the communities that need us most.”
SPACE Project, Harrow
The SPACE Project is a small local outreach project based at St Peter’s Church, West Harrow. It is principally a listening and mentoring service for young women and girls who are struggling with self esteem or facing a crisis and feeling alone. Volunteers and staff offer one-to-one mentoring support and run a ten week self esteem programme called True2U.
Rebecca Hamer of SPACE Project, commented:
“We are not trying to change people over night. But we have seen some incredible results. Seven of the eight girls who took part in the pilot self esteem course ‘True2U’, began with measurably low self-esteem and ended with measurably healthy or high self esteem. We are extremely proud of them – they are incredible young women.”
Suited & Booted, City of London
St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe church in the City of London works in partnership with the charity Suited & Booted, which helps the long-term unemployed back to work. Dr Maria Lenn, Director of Suited & Booted, is based in the church and clients referred by Jobcentres Plus or other agencies visit her and her staff of volunteers there in order to be given interview clothing and interview-technique training. The volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds – including ex-clients – and as word has spread about the presence of the charity, city workers have started coming into the church in order to drop off used interview clothing and find out more about S&B’s work. A major UK financial institution has also been so impressed by the results of S&B’s work that they are now regularly providing teams of volunteers and exploring other ways of supporting its work.
The Revd. Guy Treweek, Priest-in-Charge of St Andrew’s by the Wardrobe, commented:
“St Andrew’s is very excited to have S&B based with us in the City of London, where it is better able to tap into a wider potential support base – both of volunteers and donors.”
The William Wilberforce Trust Warehouse, Brentford
The William Wilberforce Trust Warehouse is a social enterprise and employability project, which is run alongside Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican Church in central London, providing training and enterprise for men and women who have come through offending, homelessness or addiction. The project’s main aim is to tackle the major barriers which have been created by their past and the severe difficulties which these men and women now face in trying to gain full term employment, which has often been created by long gaps on their working records. The project is based in a warehouse in Brentford. At the warehouse there is a large furniture reuse project, collecting good quality unwanted furniture from homes and putting it back into use in the homes of those in need. The majority of the warehouse is staffed by volunteers who are undertaking a 16 week employability training programme. During this programme, these men and women are offered training which includes manual handling, CV writing courses and mock interviews, all designed to give them a fresh start. The project currently has 50 volunteers and ten staff and has so far managed to help over 150 men and women.
Max Manners, Senior Project Manager said:
“The most exciting aspect of this project is that it’s success can be attributed to the efforts of the men and women who are part of the programme. Their hard work and drive to get back into employment is key to the sustainability of the social enterprise. It is these people who will make valuable employees to any willing employer.”
Urban Hope, Islington
Urban Hope was founded in 2000 as a project of St Stephen’s Church in Islington. The project grew out of the desire of St Stephen’s church to be actively engaged with and serving the local community. Over time relationships built between St Stephen’s Senior Youth Worker & Project Director, Ben Bell and a group of eight young people in the summer of 1998 led to the development of the more formal Urban Hope youth project. Those young people helped create Urban Hope over ten years. In 2012, 362 young people participated in the life of Urban Hope.
Joy Faulkner, youth and community worker at Urban Hope, said:
“Urban Hope is about creating a positive community for young people to belong to and giving them the chance at opportunities that would see them flourish. Most of the young people we know don’t get the same chances as other young people in this country, life is simply harder for them. At Urban Hope we try and address this whatever way we can, Sometimes teaching people tennis or teaching them to cook a meal from scratch, sometimes helping young people with their homework or giving them a toastie and sometimes it’s using our networks at church and beyond to help people find jobs. We don’t try and create lots of programmes for young people, we share life with them, building long term trusted relationships in safe spaces.”
While ‘Beyond Sundays’ gives an insight into the breadth and depth of activity currently being undertaken by churches in London, there is much more to be done and the Diocese is committed developing its capability to serve the needs of local communities.
About 20% of London churches already work with a partner, from the Trussell Trust on foodbanks to Age Concern and the Metropolitan Police. Following consultation with local parishes, the Diocese is now developing more partnerships to expand the reach and impact of its Community Ministry.
In Capital Vision 2020, the Diocese has also committed to a number of ambitious goals for the benefit of Londoners, including equipping and commissioning 100,000 ambassadors representing Jesus Christ in daily life, increasing the number of ordinands by 50% and opening up church buildings to the wider community.
The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, said:
“I hope this report will go some way to illustrate the remarkable support that churches provide for so many in their parishes: practically for the mother who can’t afford to put food on the table; emotionally for the young person who is being bullied; spiritually for the family who have lost a parent. The church community gives the opportunity to belong, to be known and for lives to be transformed in a unique and sustainable way. Together we are continuing to build a Church for London that is confident, compassionate and creative. Those three words inform our plan for action: Capital Vision 2020.”
Matthew Girt, Director of Strategic Development for the Diocese of London, said:
“For decades the Church in London has been the backbone of communities, the place of coming together for celebration and in crisis, yet we have never attempted to understand that impact, to learn from it, and therefore be able to make more of it. The communities we serve, and the Church have both lost out. At last we are able to look strategically at how we can do even more, who we need to work with, and how we enable yet more confident, compassionate and creative responses to build the richness of life in London. If you think you would like to be part of this, do get in touch.”