Andy Littlejohns photo webAndy Littlejohns began his new role as Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) in July this year and is based at the Chorley United Reformed Church project in Lancashire.

In his first reflection for Church Related Community Work, Andy reveals to us an idea he had, whilst on placement as a CRCW student, to bring people together in a setting that he feels at home in; a 'men in sheds group' although, as Andy explains:

"... we didn’t meet in a shed and it was for women and men. Initially envisaged as a community gardening project we called it ‘The Pottering Shed’."

However, with Andy and just two volunteers in the first six weeks, it was clear that something had to happen to make it more appealing: "This started to be quite dispiriting, so we relaunched as a woodwork group and before we knew it, we had a regular core of members who turned up every week. Members ranged in age from 25 to 93, some had worked as carpenters whilst others had never picked up a saw before."tools pic web

Before long, the group had become a little community and you can read about the impact this group had on people's lives, particularly in helping to combat loneliness and isolation in the community. And did they ever get that shed they all wanted? Read Andy's full reflection here to find out:

A year in the Life of a shed

 

 

Read more: A year in the life of a shed

Church Related Community Work (CRCW) student Felicity (Fliss) has been on placement at a mental health centre since zhang kenny F8xbFbQS1rw unsplash webCropOctober. Fliss openly admits that initially, the new environment took her out of her comfort zone:

"I’ve never worked in this area before, and it was something I was very nervous about. I didn’t like it to begin with. It honestly sounds ridiculous now, but when I started, I met with people who were very poorly, very different and I’m ashamed to say that I felt really uncomfortable."

From those early days of feeling out of her depth, Fliss has learnt a lot about the stigma surrounding mental health and how supposedly everyday language can have such a detrimental impact:

"Generations of people have grown up in societies that found terms like “psycho”, “schizo”, “loonie” and “crazy” perfectly acceptable. Some people think there is a link between mental health problems and being a danger to others. This is an idea that is reinforced by sensationalised stories in the media. However, the most common mental health problems have no significant link to violent behaviour."

Fliss has had such a positive experience at the centre in the past 6 months and has met some remarkable people. Now she understands that so much more can be done: "....to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination".

Read Fliss's full reflection: No Health without Mental Health here.

Read more: No Health without Mental Health

In the first of our July reflections, we hear from newly qualified CRCW; Jo Patterson, who is based at Copleston Church in Capture cropPeckham.

Jo says: "Change is word that scares many and for most it is often difficult to even think about. In my current project at the Copleston Church and Centre, I am surrounded by new opportunities and social justice issues that require change."

But where to start? Jo explores what it takes to make changes, not only within her Church but also within the community.

Jo says: "This group came together motivated by a desire to affect genuine change with creative actions to gain the attention of local politicians, councillors and stakeholders. The ‘pay-off’ is not money or influence, but through listening to the local community, to make significant and long-lasting change for the benefit of all."

You can read Jo's full reflection here.

Read more: Make a Change

Simon Loveiit and ministers small webFINAL

Our very own Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) Simon Loveitt (pictured second from the left) recently celebrated 30 years in CRCW ministry, which is certainly worth shouting about! The unique ministry marked its own 30-year anniversary just last year at General Assembly, where Simon was directly involved with delivering a presentation on the main stage. He says:

"It was great to be part of the 30-year celebration of Church Related Community Work at General Assembly in 2018. It was a recognition of the significant impact the Ministry has had on the Church and its community, and it celebrated the role of the sixty church and community settings, and the 45 different CRCW’s that have been part of developing this Ministry."

Simon has recently written a reflection about his experiences as a CRCW spanning 3 decades and shares what has changed since those early days. For instance, Simon says that there was no such thing as a foodbank in the 1980s and is dismayed by the growing need for foodbanks as: "...the safety nets of our society have been steadily eroded by government policy".

You can read Simon's reflection on the main URC latest news page here.

You can find out more about Simon's CRCW work at The Manor Church and Community Project in Sheffield, here.

Read more: CRCW Celebrates 30 years of Service!

For our second reflection this month we hear from Simon Loveitt; Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) based at Manor Church & Foodbank Christmas WebCropCommunity Project, Sheffield.

Simon explains the types of projects he and colleagues are involved in, within the Manor – a sprawling ex Council estate, south east of the City centre of Sheffield. The population of the estate is approximately 15,000 and the Manor and Castle Ward is currently the most deprived ward in Sheffield.

"The challenge to the Church on such an estate is how can you still be relevant and make a difference to the lives of those living there?" Says Simon.

Collaborative working and a passion for change proved to be the key: "It became clear, over 8 years ago, that an ecumenical approach was the best way to achieve our aims."

Community Carol singing WebCrop
The community project has been very active over the years and is directly involved in many community initiatives and local events, in order to make a difference to people's lives within the community. You can read all about the work taking place by reading Simon's reflection here.

Image 1 (right) shows the Foodbank at Christmas and Image 2 (left) shows community carol singing.

If you would like to find out more about the CRCW work in your area or are keen to find out more about you could become a CRCW either drop us a line by email or call the URC switchboard and ask to speak to a member of the CRCW office: 0207 916 2020.