CRCW celebrates 30 years of service

Simon Loveiit and ministersSimon Loveitt, the United Reformed Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) for the Manor Church and Community Project in Sheffield, celebrated 30 years of service last month.

Simon reflects on the past three decades serving communities:

I was commissioned on 18 July 1989 and my first post was at Hulme URC in Manchester. I have also worked in Middlesbrough and Bradford. Thirty years later, I work in Sheffield with the Manor Church and Community Project, an ecumenical initiative comprising Anglican, Methodist and URC partners.

Church Related Community Work plays a vital role in the United Reformed Church’s (URC) community involvement. CRCW's are called by God, trained theologically and professionally before being commissioned to help the Church live out its calling.

Church Related Community Work rose out of the lay order of deaconesses of the Presbyterian Church of England. When this was closed in 1975, it was recognised that a full-time, paid ministry other than that of Ministry of Word and Sacraments should be created to enable churches to engage strategically in their communities. A proposal, bought to General Assembly in 1980, was agreed and the first CRCW was commissioned in Bradford in 1981. Church Related Community Work was formally recognised as a ministry at General Assembly in 1987.

It is a ministry of engagement and transformation, both within the Church and in the wider community using community development principles.

When I was commissioned there were only five CRCW’s in post and one vacant post, which I was lucky to be called to. Currently there are 16 CRCW’s in post, and a further three in training.

My role has been to enable the church to engage and sometimes lead on initiatives which transform communities. These have included regeneration projects, community cohesion initiatives, community safety projects, large community events, environmental projects, community clean ups, tackling financial exclusion, tackling poverty and food poverty, fundraising for a new playground in a local park, tackling local housing issues, detached youth work projects, and leading children’s afternoon services and parade services.

But, during the past 30 years, there’s been many things that have changed.

Simon Loveitt getting prayed inAt the end of the 1980’s there was plenty of funding around. I chaired a project who worked with young people in the community and funding poured in - so much so that the project was able to take the young people away overnight on seventeen occasions in one year! Now, funding in all sectors of community life has become much harder to secure due to austerity meaning councils have had to cut back on their frontline services.

Working with credit unions has also been a major part of my ministry as financial exclusion has been a major issue in the communities I have lived and worked.

I got involved with the Moss Side and Hulme Credit Union in 1990 and have supported credit unions ever since. They provide a real alternative to doorstep lenders or loan sharks and help people to learn money management skills.

Another big change to our society over the last thirty years is the issue of food poverty and the rise of foodbanks.

Foodbanks didn’t exist in 1989, and the safety nets of our society have been steadily eroded by government policy. How can we, as the sixth richest nation be comfortable with the establishment and growth of foodbanks?

I am treasurer of our local foodbank for the Manor Estate and last year we distributed 55 tons of food. We have also launched a supermarket-styled food club, a follow-on initiative of the foodbank, where customers pay £2.50 membership per week to gain access to £25-£30 worth of food they choose.

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.

Our ministry shares Jesus’ model of working towards the Kingdom, by working with people and communities ‘where they are’. It has been a privilege to serve as a CRCW for 30 years knowing that God is present and reflected in the world and its people.

 

Picture 1: Simon  celebrating 30 years as a CRCW with his parish. From left to right, the Revd Ian Owers, the Revd Canon Julie Upton, the Revd Sibylle Batten, Simon Loveitt and the Revd Karen Colley.

Picture 2: Simon being commissioned into the CRCW ministry.

Published: 1 Aug 2019