CHRIS CLEWER – Chairman of CTiP – The Plymouth Pathway
Describing how Churches Together in Plymouth had been led over the previous 5 years, much of this brought in through successive ‘City Transformations’ (CT). The conference was a great opportunity to gather vision from assembled leaders for the coming year; and to ‘sharpen the axe’ as we step back and wait on the Lord for a day together.
CT 2008 was led by Hugh Osgood of Churches in Community. We heard the Council vision for the city: ‘Plymouth will be recognised as one of Europe’s finest, most vibrant waterfront cities, where an outstanding quality of life is enjoyed by everyone.’ Hugh said that in response to this city ‘Vision2020’; the Plymouth church should be that of Paul in Acts20:20 ‘I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.’ This has become a mantra for the work and vision of CTiP – to hold nothing back that is helpful, but publicly and privately to serve the city and better enable churches and ministries to serve the city too.
The city’s Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) said the vision would be measured under the headings of; Healthy, Wealthy, Safe and Wise. We set about compiling a ‘Faith Action Audit’ (FAA) to gather information about what Faith communities were doing, not for themselves, but for their communities – under these four headings. We commissioned Plymouth University Social Research Group to do the report. Their findings, on the basis of a 50% return was that 450,000 volunteer hours of Community serving was being delivered annually. They used minimum wage to calculate a notional value of that work as £2.8m pa. Considering the other 50%, we’d be delivering nearly £6m into community cohesion in the city. On the basis of ‘holding nothing back’ we could now quantify and qualify what Faith groups were contributing towards the city vision and mission. We published a FAA report and launched it in the Council Chamber, proceedings opened by the Mayor, with Council and Police leaders, city MP’s and 100 faith leaders present. They were blown away by all that Faith communities were doing!
In CT 2009, Lloyd Cooke of Saltbox, Stoke on Trent (who had done a Faith Action Audit in 2005) spoke to the conference. He had championed the involvement of Church in the infrastructure of a city through its Governance, Law & order, Business, Media, Arts, Education, Sport etc. He rightly said that the FAA would open doors we had to be ready to go through. Following our FAA, CTiP was invited to sit on a LSP committee, now known as the 2020 Board; Police Independent Advisory Group, ITN Diversity panel, Plymouth Area Business Council, Military Covenant – and write a monthly column in the Herald newspaper. This brought us alongside the ‘shakers and movers’ in many spheres of city life. We are digging ditches through city structures; and God by His Spirit is irrigating them!
In CT 2010, we engaged with Debra Green’s Redeeming our Communities, as a means of developing vision and involvement of more churches of the city. Debra spoke to the Leaders’ conference about what was Plymouth’s Redeeming purpose? In prayerful reflection, leaders were brought back to the city motto from Pr18:10 ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower’ followed by, ‘the righteous run into it and are safe’. The following city ‘Spiritual Vision’ therefore read: For Plymouth to be a welcoming city – safe, caring and hope-filled for all. Where churches develop in unity; with new partnerships for growth and diversity – and new methods for mission and mercy. They will be prayer based and God centred, with inequalities reducing and opportunities increasing; a new generation pioneering as we trust in Christ to grow in faith and impact the city in grace and truth.
We organised a launch of Redeeming our Communities (ROC) for the South-west at Plymouth’s Pavilion arena. In October 2011, 1,300 people poured through the doors and experienced an inspiring evening showcasing Christians in community service across the region. Subsequently, there has been a Youth ROC Cafe, work with Probation, ex-offenders and NHS in the city. ROC conversations have generated projects in Exeter, Torbay, Launceston, St Ives, Ivybridge and Barnstable, giving us a greater sense of Regional connection.
CT2011 – Dr Rev Russ Parker had encouraged us to seek God’s message for and healing of Plymouth as a place. Through it’s history of defence, military establishments, Asylum seeker dispersal city etc. And in CT2012 – Andy Hawthorne had challenged the church to engage youth and step out in faith.
The current climate was against austerity which was represented in every council by a ‘Graph of doom’ where costs were rising and budgets decreasing. Councils were Asset-rich but Cash-poor, so were seeking greater community engagement with voluntary sector leading. Salami slicing of budgets could no longer meet the needs of economising; radical change in the way institutions and agencies worked was needed. This is a massive opportunity for the church to step in and meet social needs, but to do it communicating the love of God and imperative of the Gospel as they do.
ROY CROWNE – Executive Director HOPE Together UK
God caused a number of leaders to dream up HOPE; and as a result 1500 places in the country registered they were doing something towards HOPE 08. Many denominational leaders came back to Roy saying they thought HOPE should go again, it’s a trusted brand and love its values. To discover that God is leading community transformation in communities, and opens opportunities for communicating the Gospel, which is the motivation for what we do.
Roy reminded us of the pioneers of the past. William Booth and his “I’ll fight while… message when aged 83 years. John Wesley’s ‘Sermons on the Mount’ travelling 250,000 miles with the Gospel on horseback, writing 600 books and complaining to his doctor when asked to slow down aged 84 years.
Roy spoke of the relevance and timely truth of Mt 9:35-38 ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
The UK harvest IS white, we need the labourers. Moving in response to that harvest hangs on three precepts: See it, Feel it, Do it …
1) SEE IT… Mt9:36 ‘When Jesus saw the crowds…’. The Lord calls upon us to ‘see it as He sees it, to look with the eyes of a prophet – see the city and the church as God sees them’. Does He look across the city and see denominations? No – He sees one church. Eph4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all… We need to embrace differences in different ways, to celebrate the variety of cultures in our church and community. Catch a moment, see an opportunity to join with community and share the Gospel by, seeing with the eyes of a prophet. Mayflower 2020 will be a great moment for Plymouth. There are other community activities that the church can champion and be at the heart of, and make the Gospel relevant. Jesus preached the Gospel and healed the sick. Use Social action, community transformation and Mission opportunities in a rhythm of declaration and consolidation. Roy shared how HOPE had seen Gospel opportunities through the Queen’s Christmas speech, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Big Lunch (Tim Smit of Eden Project – had been trying to engage the church for 3 years but didn’t know who to talk to!). Roy, ‘I’m the church – talk to me’. And the Big lunch went from 3m to 8m in a year – and the only difference was the engagement of the church.
2) FEEL IT… Mt9:36 ‘… He had compassion on them’. We need compassion, both for the lost and the church next door. If we share a Gospel of reconciliation and forgiveness, it’s illogical to harbour competitiveness defensiveness or resentment against other churches. Feel the significance of coming events. 2014 will be a very significant year. The Centenary of WW1 where every school will be financed for 2 children and a teacher to visit a WW1 site for research purposes. That is likely to bring them back to our churches – get to the heart of this. John’s Gospel was produced for everyone in WW1 and is being re-produced in 2014 which we can use. Christmas 2014 was when German and Allied forces stopped fighting to play football and sing Silent Night. Churches can re-play this unique event to communicate the Gospel. HOPE14 are seeking to write an additional verse to Silent Night and release it in the charts by Military Wives. Channel 5 are broadcasting a dramatisation of the Bible in December 14, we can be ready with HOPE materials.
3) DO IT... Mt9:38 ‘therefore pray the Lord of the harvest, to send out labourers into His harvest’. Get your church into a rhythm of mission. The Christian calendar offers us a rhythm of mission: Easter, Pentecost, Harvest, Christmas. Look out, reach out, consolidate; look out, reach out, consolidate … New vision will unearth new labourers. Create city vision and resource and enable churches to embrace their communities. For church leaders – they cannot do Everything, but do Something! Agree on 3 key HOPE events that their church can support, use the HOPE branding and do it together. Re-supply the HOPE in Plymouth boards to be erected outside churches – it speaks of unity of mission among different churches in the city. What we DO now is the legacy we will leave to the next generation.
TRACEY LEE – Chief Executive of Plymouth City Council
Tracey shared how she was raised as one of 4 children in a poor, cold house in London. Her parents instilled ambition into their children saying, ‘education is the key’ and provided one warm place for them to do homework, with lots of tea and encouragement – the family thrived. North Prospect is one of the biggest regeneration projects in the country. Tracey’s motivation is to give every child a ‘warm place to do their homework’ and a good start in life.
Tracey feels immense pride in the city – the third largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney and San Francisco. Hosted the America’s cup in 2010, ahead of San Francisco. Voted best Council in 2010 which was a massive improvement on how the council had been over the years. Now branded as ‘Britain’s Ocean City’. Recognises that there are 51 towns and cities named Plymouth around the world due to the heritage of Ocean-going trade that has operated from this Plymouth. A good place to live: 85% of schools are Good or Outstanding. 8th in the country for high growth business. 9th largest University in the UK. But many challenges: We are not keeping our students due to insufficient graduate jobs. There is a 14 year difference in life-expectancy a bus ride apart…
She explained the council’s role in supporting the present administration which is operating as a ‘Cooperative Council’. It aims to create opportunity for everyone to achieve, but expects responsibility for everyone to contribute – where people and organisations play there part with collective working across partners. Dame Suzi Leather had been appointed to lead the Fairness Commission which wanted to target every area of inequality of opportunity. To have a 14 year difference in life expectancy a bus ride apart needed tackling.
Plymouth’s ambition is to grow from 258,000 to 300,000 in population, as this is a tipping point for a city. The council has a Landlord support initiative to encourage the building of 5,000 additional homes to facilitate this growth. The city is recognised as 8th best in the country for high-growth of business and the 9th largest University. There is an urgent need to improve the rail system connecting the city. In 2012, we were briefly cut off completely by major road and rail links, but flood defences had not yet been improved.
Plymouth Council had it’s own ‘Graph of Doom’ showing the widening gap between projected needs vs resources – leading to a £64m gap in three years unless we work radically differently. Tracey talked through the new Plymouth corporate Plan – which had been reduced to one page. To be One team serving the city rather than disparate groups – with the values of Democracy, Responsibility, Fairness and Partnership running throughout. And to seek the objectives for Plymouth to be Pioneering, Growing, Caring and Confident.
Tracey highlighted areas where the Faith community could greatly help: 1) Foster care; 53 babies and 284 children were under Council protection needing homes. 2) Care for the elderly is a massively growing need as the population ages; caring for people leaving hospital, the house-bound lonely through befriending schemes. And 3) Supporting Credit Unions, placing our savings to enable their lending.
ROY CROWNE – Executive Director HOPE Together UK
40,000 people met in the Excel centre to birth HOPE 14 in prayer. Plymouth needs a Prayer event to start HOPE Together here. Perhaps use the January Unity Service.
Encourage each church to give financially into HOPE. It’s amazing what finance can be achieved to employ a HOPE worker.
Hearing what’s happened today – the prosperity of the city is in the hands of the people of God. Pray for God’s blessing to go across the whole of Plymouth. The opportunity is before us to embrace. Sensing what is happening in many places across the nation, bring all the denominations into agreement together.
Prophetically, it’s a time to go on the offensive – to see it through. Churchill was a master orator, but when asked to speak on leadership, he offered only two words, ‘Don’t quit’! Because God calls us, we can’t quit, because ultimately, He does more than we could ask or think. So step out – and do more. There are many moments ahead of us that we need to see ‘with the eyes of a prophet’ – to catch the moment for God and the Gospel. There is a stirring across the nation – may this be our moment!