What’s In Your Hand?
In early March, Ian had the opportunity to visit a city in Northern England – Sheffield. This is an area renowned for its heavy industry and in years gone by, steel making and a number of associated industries. It is made up of a cross-section of social divides. Some people train it to London on a daily bases where high paid salaries can be commanded. In other parts of this 4th largest city in England, there is severe poverty and social deprivation. It was incredible to see what ‘The Church’ is doing in these areas.
We were able to see first hand what the church is doing to connect with its community. Although the communities of faith were not large they were having a significant impact.
The Spires Centre
At this center, they run various projects for the community including several groups for vulnerable people. On Wednesdays, they hold a luncheon club for senior citizens which provides a healthy meal, activities, and social interaction for some otherwise lonely people.
On Thursday mornings is a Mums and Toddlers Playgroup which targets isolated parents/carers in the community. They provide a healthy snack, craft activities and a singalong time to encourage parent/child interaction.
Two youth clubs run weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays providing activities for 10-18-year-old children.
Spires FoodBank provides emergency food parcels for people in financial difficulty, a service that is needed more and more in this area, and also runs a Soup Wagon for the homeless in Sheffield City Centre on a Sunday evening. For both of these projects, they depend on donations from people in their church (Arbourthorne Community Church) and retail donors.
Meadowhead Community Fellowship
This community of faith is right in the centre of one of the most deprived council housing estates in Europe. They took over a former supermarket 15 years ago and have become a community hub, opening a community cafe with inexpensive food and drinks and creating a third place for people to congregate.
In the downturn in 2008, the local council were going to give up its library service. This would have been devastating for the community and the children who do not come from homes where the internet is readily available. The church offered to run it on a voluntary basis with over 30+ volunteers. They offer a help centre and debt elevation programme. People who would not visit the church building 50 metres away gladly come to the library, and have built up trust and relationships they are happy to bring their children to the mothers and toddler group at the church.
Southern Light Community Church
This is an innovative group of faith-filled people. They do what is in their hands. They have a building that they have found ways to make available for community gatherings. Every week they hold a craft club, community cafe, and mothers and toddlers. They have a huge open door to the community. Lesley Davis the senior leader is passionate about adding value to people who often feel valueless.
Spa View Community Church
This is quite a unique situation with the city council upgrading this building to a great standard and asking if a community group would care for it and care for the community at the same time. Every week, football teams meet for a great ‘kick around.’ Toddlers groups and Chair Aerobics are just some of the activities that are conducted from the building. The staff often help in community programmes and local schools.
This was such an inspiring place to be and observe the work within local communities who although low on resources are high on passion and creativity. Weekly goodness is being poured into hundreds and hundreds of lives.
Ian was there to share his experience of ‘Community Transformation’ but came away with much more than he imparted.