Church Related Community Worker; Maria JY Lee works with the CRCW project in Chelmsford.
In her new reflection, Maria pantry WebCropMaria shares some worrying statistics, identifying the community she works in as one of the most deprived in the city. Maria says:

"Our neighbourhoods in North Avenue are literally trapped in a cycle of deep poverty. According to a Public Health England report in 2017, life expectancy is 6.7 years lower for men and 2.9 years lower for women in the most deprived areas (e.g. North Avenue). In terms of Child poverty, 28% of all children, in the UK, are living in poverty"
(Child Poverty Action Group 2013/2014 statistics).

With demands on the local food bank high and the subsequent end of the North Avenue Christian Centre as a distribution hub, the team were keen to help. Maria says:

"People’s needs for basic foods and personal care items are high. I wanted to tackle the poverty-related social issues such as child poverty, hardship in lone parent households and mental health-related isolation. The team and I were keen to find effective ways of continuing to support the needs of our community."

One of the ways the team wanted to support the community was to create a little free pantry, an idea that has its roots in America. The aim is for people to leave items in a little pantry, which is accessible to all and provides items for those who need them most. It requires no voucher or payment but you can leave something if you wish: "LEP (Little Free Pantry) at North Avenue is for neighbours helping neighbours." It's as simple as that (but effective)!

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To read Maria's full story, see pictures and see how the pantry was received by the community on its launch day click here.

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Read more: Story of the Little Free Pantry

This is undoubtedly one of the busiest month's of the year for most and with so much to do, it can be easy to forget to give yourself photo 1551852922 003865d4a3ba WEBCROPsome time out, space to breathe and think about your own mental wellbeing.

CRCW Jo Patterson has written a great article about mindfulness and how it's not just about seeking help with things go wrong, but constantly keeping your mental wellbeing in mind, which is equally as important as keeping your body fit and healthy:

"Regular maintenance of our mental well-being is just as necessary as a lemsip! After all, it could just be a matter of an hour between being fine and being vulnerable - and God knows that we are vulnerable all the time."

Jo describes how their vicar; Edward went on a mindfulness retreat for clergy last year and was so impressed by the way it made him feel that he went on courses to train as a mindfulness coach himself. He partnered with another qualified coach and as a result, the centre now offers regular mindfulness courses and drop in sessions. This has been a life-changer for some.

You can read Jo's full reflection about Mindfulness here.

Read more: The importance of taking care of oneself

"Building Bridges was developed as a vehicle for Church Related Community Ministry and to support the Children's centre in Building Bridges Project Review Image Web croplinking to families in need".

The Building Bridges project in Tonge Moor, Bolton has been running for 14 years and has seen two Church Related Community Workers (CRCWs) during this time: Pat Oliver from 2006 - 2013 and in recent times, Alison Dalton from 2015 - 2020.

The project may be coming to an end but it is hopeful that much of the work will continue. To assess the impact of this project on the community of Tonge Moor, the Building Bridges Management group commissioned a review, which aimed to explore three main objectives:

  • Celebrate the achievements.
  • Identify successes and challenges.
  • Highlight the legacy to the Tonge Moor community.

"The Project is about human relationships, bringing different ages, faiths, cultures and communities together".

You can read the full report here.

Read more: Building Bridges Project Review

As another CRCW post draws to a close, Church Related Community Worker; Alison Dalton ponders: 'What next?'sapan patel GkLdVcOjGE unsplash WebCrop

Alison has been at the Building Bridges project in Bolton for 5 years following 8 years at 'Bridging Communities' project in Poole. There have been great successes at the Building Bridges project during its 14 year term, which can be seen in their recent report, highlighting the legacy to the Tonge Moor community. Now Alison knows it is time to move on but is still unsure of where her next chapter will begin:

"I still wonder why I am not getting the same strong sense of call as I have in the past, but feel that maybe that is more about me, my own busyness, current lack of stillness and trust?" In this uncertain time, Alison is certain of one thing as she recalls:

"I need to ‘let go and let God."

You can read Alison's honest and open account of the highs and lows of such a personal journey here in her full reflection: Listening for God, ‘letting go and letting God'.

Read more: Listening for God, ‘letting go and letting God'

This month, we share a post, written in October by Church Related Development Worker (CRCW) Adella Pritchard, who recently moved tomike erskine Xtnt5xtK03E unsplas web crop the Swansea region project following 10 years as a CRCW in Birmingham. However, Adella is currently in neither of these cities and instead, undertaking a great opportunity to learn about Disability, Mission & Transformation in New Zealand. Adella writes:

"I see that we are the people encouraging the church congregation in is action; helping the congregation to engage with its community; assisting in the formation and for a time, the delivery of the community project and we are the people who steer the theological reflection and project evaluating. Put simply we are the people that journey with missional congregations and who embrace the community members."

Adella, reflects on what she has learnt so far and has some fascinating insights to share. If you would like to find out more about transforming lives and building a community, read Adella's full reflection here: Disability, Mission & Transformation.

Read more: Disability, Mission & Transformation