On the Money: Mission in the World

by Alison Webster

Alison Webster

The needs of a tiny village, or one street of an urban estate, to wider issues controlled by global forces are all part of the work of the Diocese of Oxford’s Mission in the World team.

Christians might intervene on many different levels and what happens locally has a global dimension. There are people from all over the world living in most communities in this diocese. A lot of issues that are perceived to be local are driven by international forces.

A concrete example is employment opportunities. The job market in any location is driven by global economic trends and situations. Local education and services will be largely dictated by national policy. There are four headings that set the agenda for what the Mission in the World team do:

We look at what is happening on a parish level. It may be engaging with those experiencing domestic abuse or those with mental health issues. As churches we respond through practical support and the more we engage practically, the clearer we see the systemic and structural causes of injustice. This in turn can lead us to work for change through advocacy and campaigning, which leads us into partnerships with other denominations, faith and secular agencies.

All this is embedded in deep theological reflection. We work for nothing less than the care and healing of God’s people and God’s world.

The Mission in the World Team:

  • Alison Webster – social responsibility adviser
  • Bethan Willis – assistant social responsibility adviser
  • The Revd Canon Glyn Evans – rural officer
  • The Revd Joanna Collicutt – Spiritual Care for Older People (SCOP) adviser
  • Maranda St John Nicolle – world development adviser
  • Victoria Slater – researcher, Living Well in the End Times project (externally funded)

Partnerships for Creation

PARTNERING with other people in care for creation can be an important part of a church’s witness and outreach, a way of practically showing the love of God and neighbour. But how can we work effectively with partners in the community? And how can we build positive relationships with local politicians?

Jo Musker-Sherwood, Neil Clark, Karl Wallendszus and Richard Foster discuss how churches can partner with politicians and others in their communities. Photo: Maranda St John Nicolle.

Recently in Oxford, Christians from different churches came together to think through these questions. In the morning Alice Hemming, coordinator of Oxfordshire’s Community Action Groups network, and John Clements, from the Parish of North Hinksey with Botley, spoke about the way in which community sustainability groups operate and how churches can start their own or get involved with them.

Inspired by examples like the Botley Community Fridge, participants brainstormed about activities their churches could undertake and community partners they might work with. In the afternoon, leading environmental charity Hope for the Future ran a session on how to build a constructive relationship with your MP. Using – for the first time – their newly published workbook, which brings together expertise gleaned from research and dozens of MP meetings, Director Jo Musker-Sherwood and Assistant Director Sarah Robinson discussed how parliament works, techniques that are effective in meetings, and how to continue a relationship beyond a single meeting.

The afternoon culminated in a role play exercise in which a group of participants planned and carried out a meeting with Jo standing in as their MP. The response to both sessions was enthusiastic.

If you’d like to find out more or want to receive a Hope for the Future workbook, contact the diocesan world development adviser maranda@ccow.org.uk.

Volunteers help clothe hundreds of Bracknell’s poorest

by Jo Duckles

A van is loaded with clothes to be given away. Photo: St Mark’s, Binfield.

THE poorest and most vulnerable people in the Bracknell area are being helped by a clothing bank run by churches and volunteers in the deanery.

The idea started in Binfield when a mum had a bag of clothes to give away but felt the local charity shop was setting prices too high for those living in poverty.
“We got our heads together and decided to give clothes away to families in need. We have four seasonal giveaways each year. We get donations from churches around the deanery. They are not just Church of England, all of the churches in the area get involved,” said Gisele Taylor, who co-ordinates the project. The scheme was inspired by Jesus’s words in Matthew 25, vs 36: “I needed clothes and you clothed me…”

Clothes are picked up by volunteers and taken to a container at St Mark’s Church in Binfield. They are sorted into ages for children and sizes for adults. For the giveaways, 70 to 80 boxes are taken to St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Bracknell.

Clients are referred from a variety of charities and agencies. These include Bracknell Women’s Aid, mental health charities, Christians Against Poverty, Social Services, Lighthouse Homeless Project and various foodbanks.

“The project is in contact with a breadth of projects and schemes that help people in situations where they find themselves in need. The clothes are taken to St Joseph’s by volunteers. Some are taken in cars, one person once delivered some in a horse box. It brings the community together to help, which is wonderful,” said Gisele.

Clients who are referred to the clothing bank receive vouchers which allow them to visit St Joseph’s during a giveaway and take whatever clothes they need.
“We restrict the new clothing people can take away and some of what we receive isn’t appropriate. The majority of clients are aged between 20 and 40. Two thirds of the clothes we give away are for children and one third for adults. We don’t have a lot of need for older adult clothing or smarter clothes. We have emergency referrals too between giveaways. We recently had a family of refugees so we clothed them.” Gisele said that any clothing unlikely to be wanted by the core client group was sold on Ebay and the money used to buy new underwear and pyjamas, which can’t be given away second hand.

“We get 90 to 130 clients each time. I co-ordinate the project but it is very much a joint effort and we couldn’t do it without all of the volunteers we have on board. We have people from industry, someone from Microsoft and a number of people from Lloyds who are given a number of days per year to work within the community.”

Volunteers also deal with the administration of the project. New for 2017 is a specific school uniform giveaway. “School uniforms don’t tend to go during the regular giveaways but we wanted to do something for families at the crunch time of year, before the new school years starts,” added Gisele.

For anyone living in the Bracknell area who would like to donate clothes or get involved, contact St Mark’s Binfield on
office@binfieldcofechurches.org.uk or 01344 421079.