2+2=5 Does it add up?
Abby is 15. She doesn't enjoy school very much, partly because she is hardly ever there. She likes meeting her mates in the recess round the back of the church. It's hidden from view, and nobody interferes. There's just about enough space for some of the lads to kick a plastic bottle about. Pity about that window. Abby likes drawing but doesn't get much chance at home. The church back door is a blank space where she can use a felt tip.
The Vicar gets fed up sweeping up the broken glass, cigarette ends and rubbish. She decides to try to speak to the youngsters, to get to know them, to try to understand what thy think. 18 months later, the teenagers call the west end inside the church “their” space; vandalism has stopped; the rubbish is less; and their ideas are being heard.
This story happened because the congregation took their idea to the local authority and a well-known national children's charity to get support. A practical, effective partnership developed.
2+2=5. Bad maths but still right. The successful outcome was achieved because the organi- sations involved are more effective working together than separately. Partnership is one way forward which all churches should consider in the current political and economic environment. We may not share all the values of statutory agencies and indeed many other
refuses to run, or raising funds for new facilities in the village.
But, you might say, we will lose our independence. Well, check that out. What independence is important to you? Can the partners agree about boundaries of involvement or action? Decide in advance about the limits of your financial contribution. We are Christian churches, and our faith principles are the bedrock on which our mission is based. A potential danger is “mission drift” - the situation where instead of a church deciding what is needed and then finding the resources, adapts what its plans to the funding available. A risky strategy! Worcester Diocese has produced a checklist, a series of questions which we ask ourselves if we are considering applying for external funding.
voluntary and community sector (VCS) organisations, but if we can work together without compromising our faith principles, then much kingdom-building work can be done.
Other stories from Worcester Diocese include turning the church crypt into a community space and a furniture recycling project. All have partnership-working as part of their life-blood. Partnership might just mean agreeing to carry out an audit of the needs of the local residents, or contributing to the development and
implementation of the Parish Plan. It might go further – providing a service that the local authority
You can find it on:- www.cofe-worcester.org.uk/
work_of_the_diocese/doc_lib/ biddingortenderingforservicecon tracts.pdf
You might also get advice through your local county or borough Compact, the agreement that should have been drawn up between the statutory agencies and the VCS. Also, many areas now have VCS Infrastructure bodies. These receive funding from the government to build the capacity of voluntary groups by providing training and other support.
So, in summary. If you are thinking about joining a community partnership:-
• Stand firm on your faith foundations
• Remember that the church is there to serve the community
• Be open to new ideas and relationships
• Avoid short-termism. We are kingdom people, not 100 metre sprinters!
Revd John Paxton
Social Responsibility Officer, Diocese of Worcester
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