Workplace chaplaincy group ‘Churches and Industry Group Birmingham/Solihull’ (CIGB) is seeking to appoint an energetic Development Director to take forward…
Martin Graham introduces the ‘As one’ initiative:
‘Few would disagree that we need more community kindness and solidarity, with local people knowing each other, enjoying a friendly atmosphere, creating an answer to endemic loneliness, giving practical help to vulnerable neighbours and enjoying the kind of warm communal environment most people would want their children to grow up in. How could that be achieved? Ten years ago, the first Street Association was launched in Birmingham and it, along with others, is still going strong. The idea is that a single street (maybe with 50 or 100 houses) can develop its own identity, put on events like a Christmas party, BBQ or quiz night to bring people together and, as more neighbours get to know each other, start to see ‘friendship, fun, belonging and a helping hand’ flow. It works!
How, then, to encourage the creation of more of Street Associations? Birmingham’s 2018-20 ‘Permission to Smile’ campaign demonstrated the power of a coordinated banner campaign, permitted and supported by the local authority. Hundreds of large vinyl banners, hosted by churches, parks, libraries, schools, GP surgeries etc. and at the side of major roads, had a huge impact and established a powerful brand and a message, all based on a wide partnership. But it took on-the-ground facilitation by churches to convert that appeal into local action, through putting on ‘Permission to Smile tea parties.’ This use of the known brand attracted high attendance and every church, typically inviting about 10 local streets, made sure to have a specific table reserved for each street invited, near-neighbours therefore sitting together and getting to know each other. Table groupings were then invited to consider starting a Street Association. Having several households from the same street opting to do that together made it so much easier to get things going and Street Associations were formed.
In 2020, the first lockdown brought the surge of community spirit that we all remember. What if, this spring and summer, that ‘folk memory’ could be appealed to with a simple plan to make continued community spirit part of ‘who we are’ going forward on each street? A new banner campaign (plus social networking) could proclaim a new partnership, brand and message. This would then enable each church to reap long-lasting rewards for its own neighbourhood, from a tea-party event that rekindles community spirit, street by street. Church members would be at the heart of these street communities, praying for their street, forming new friendships and enabled in a new way to become ‘salt and light’ where they live.
Churches are invited to consider putting on two events as local expressions of the high-profile ‘As One’ partnership: first, a very local outdoor community memorial service, inviting all residents of the neighbourhood to come to stand together ‘as one,’ remember the traumas of all kinds brought by Covid including bereavement, fear, isolation, loss of income, home schooling and all the rest – and find a measure of peace (suggested formats, prayers etc. are provided); second, about a week later, an ‘As One’ tea party event, with a table reserved for each street invited and encouragement for each table grouping to consider forming their own Street Association, giving the event a significant long-term legacy, with Christians right at the heart. The organisation of events will be done with the benefit of clear guidance and materials provided (letterhead, leaflets, posters, suggested talks etc.), making it much easier for churches to put on. At the same time, attendance will be greatly boosted (way beyond the ‘regulars’) by the ‘As One’ partnership brand and extensive messaging.’
In the Midlands, ‘As One’ is operating in Birmingham, Dudley and Walsall. To find out more, click HERE.
Birmingham City Centre Retail Chaplaincy ‘be.friend’ is making plans for its ministry to the staff and stall-holders of the Frankfurt…