Churches launch new initiative to ‘Meet Your MP’

Nicola Furley Smith Southern synod moderator with Tom Brake MPA new initiative created by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) launched on Friday (5 October) in England and Wales to encourage church congregations to build a relationship with their local MP.

‘Meet Your MP’ aims to help Christians to engage with the representatives who make the political decisions that affect the country and everyday lives, and to enable MPs to get to know their local churches better too.

‘Like it or not, politics matters. In an age where our political discourse is increasingly fractured, Meet Your MP will help to build understanding and promote positive relationships between decision-makers and church communities,’ explained Simeon Mitchell, secretary for Church and Society for the United Reformed Church, and member of the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT), which brings together the Baptist Union, Methodist Church, URC and Church of Scotland to work on issues of justice, peace and political engagement.

The initiative is based around the idea of churches inviting their MP to a special event or meeting.

MeetYourMPmontage2‘You could invite your MP to visit a church project, or come along to an event, or take them on a walk of your local area to highlight issues that church members feel need to be addressed,’ he continued. ‘It’s about going deeper than just sending an occasional letter or email, but really trying to get to know your representative in Westminster and giving your MP an opportunity to better understand the activities and concerns of local churches. You are far more likely to be able to influence an MP over a particular issue in the future if you already have a relationship with them.’

A variety of useful resources to help facilitate these meetings are now available on the JPIT website, including a ‘how to …’ guide and a letter template that can be used when contacting your MP. JPIT stresses no previous political experience is required.

Meet Your MP was first developed by the ecumenical Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) and has been running in Scotland since March. Politicians and church leaders in Scotland have already praised the impact of the initiative.

‘Meet Your MP is great for the churches and the MPs,’ says Joanna Cherry, MP, for Edinburgh South West. ‘In my experience, quite often the movers and shakers in communities can be located in faith communities, so it is really important for parliamentarians to get to know them.’

Mr Mitchell added: ‘We are very grateful to our colleagues in Scotland who have generously shared their excellent initiative and encouraged and supported JPIT to develop a version for England and Wales. We hope it will result in lots more congregations and politicians getting involved.’

For ‘Meet Your MP’ resources and to learn more, visit www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/MeetYourMP

Picture: The Revd Nicola Furley-Smith, Moderator for the United Reformed Church Southern Synod with Tom Brake MP for Carshalton and Wallington