Our post-industrial towns
07 August 2019 IN: National News
Post-industrial Northern towns. You might think of high streets closing, growing disillusionment, a lack of vision and resources within local councils, and low aspiration among people who live there, especially the young.
The challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming, and it was in this context that northern dioceses got together in Manchester to discern opportunities to effectively share the Good News of the gospel in some of the most deprived, struggling and broken contexts in the country.
"We were joined for the workshop by representatives from Liverpool, Blackburn, Sheffield and Leeds, who each brought their own wisdom and experience. It was also a wonderful opportunity to support and encourage one another through prayer and conversation," said Archdeacon of Rochdale, Cherry Vann.
"There was much to be encouraged by, including stories of hope and engagement. One key theme was the importance of creating ‘in-between spaces’ where people can explore the Christian faith on neutral ground. Blackburn, for example, is investing in sports ministry to make connections and build relationships, particularly with men. Others spoke of creating programmes for families and children run by children and youth workers.
"The Manchester group shared stories of planting small churches, and the extraordinary work that God is doing through the church on the Oldhams Estate in Bolton and elsewhere.
"All agreed that relationships are key, and that it takes time to build trust, grow hope and nurture faith, particularly in contexts where people feel ignored, abandoned and forgotten by the rest of society."
"The Church is called to discern what God is already doing in these communities and commit to putting in the necessary resources so that we can work effectively with Him. Crucial to this will be finding ways of identifying and encouraging home-grown leaders, both lay and ordained, with gifts and potential ministries borne out of their experience. This is probably the biggest challenge facing the local and national Church."
Photographs by Phil Taylor