Love the Street evangelism training in Norwich
Norfolk is such a diverse county. There are areas such as North Norfolk that attract the London set, and places that have far less going for them; towns where deprivation is in the highest 10 per cent of the country, education attainment poor and with higher than average unemployment. One thing in common is parish churches with congregations called by Jesus to make a difference.
One answer to help them bring transformation to their communities is an initiative called Imagine Norfolk Together. This is a joint venture between the Church Urban Fund (CUF) and the Diocese of Norwich. CUF was birthed out of the 1985 Faith in the City report following the riots in St Paul’s in Bristol, and Toxteth in Liverpool. £55m was raised from the Church Commissioners and parishes.
Here, finance went to projects such as Godly Play, The Magdalene Group and 4Cs counselling. It paid for a youth worker in Heartsease, which became ENYP now working with young people across the city, and funded a Neighbourhood Community Worker in King’s Lynn.
That money is now spent, but other funders have taken up the baton. They recognised the expertise the CUF had gained in administering grants and are supporting them to continue through the Together Network. It aims to develop capacity for action at a local level, and to inform, inspire, resource and support local churches and organisations, as they work to address issues of social justice and relationships between communities.
Together programmes are operating across the country – mostly in places with a massive urban sprawl such as Birmingham – but the Revd Canon Peter Howard, Urban Officer and CUF link, felt that it could work here and two posts have now been funded. One is in Great Yarmouth and the other in King’s Lynn, two of the most deprived areas of Norfolk.
Anna Heydon was appointed earlier this year to work in the Great Yarmouth area. Previously Anna worked as a speech therapist, and it was apparent when I was talking with her that her love of people is her prime motivation. Her new post has given her the opportunity to get to know the community in a deeper way. There is a definite sense of calling.
“I love this place,” she says. “It’s on my heart. I feel that God has given me a very strong, very clear call; one that I can go back to when things get tough.” Anna is aware that it will not be easy but she has many ideas of how she can help local churches of all denominations engage more closely. What she is very clear about is that this is not about a top-down approach, nor about duplicating what is already in place and working well.
There are already some great things happening, such as the Food Bank and the Christians Against Poverty (CAP) money course. Many churches run lunch clubs, but isolation is still a big issue, with nearly one-sixth of the population being made up of pensioners living on their own. This is particularly a problem in the outlying villages, which have poor transport. Her overarching aim therefore, is to help the community to come together, to help itself.
One first step will be to run some training events, to look at the issues faced in the Borough and beyond and how they can best be addressed. She has been told by a couple of church leaders that they really want to be engaged more deeply but that they have found it hard to get started. “It seems to be a real issue, as people can seem suspicious of engaging with the churches around them other than in a formal way, such as baptisms, weddings and funerals. A possible part of the problem is that many professionals have chosen to live outside the area and so are not seen to belong.”
Another step is to work with the growing migrant community. Coming from Poland, Portugal and Lithuania, many struggle with the language and it is easy for them to fall through the cracks. Many jobs are seasonal and if they lose them, it is not easy to access benefits. Last year a Portuguese man was found dead in a disused hotel; he had died of starvation. One possible solution is setting up a winter night shelter. Anna is already working with the Salvation Army and other churches and organisations to get that going later this year.
When asked to dream what she would like to see in three years’ time, Anna responded: “I want to see more green shoots sprouting up as people get involved in their communities, walking alongside them and seeing them growing and beginning to flourish; seeing people really working together within the churches; being a light in the darkness.”
Editor’s note: as we went to press the Imagine Norfolk Together post in King’s Lynn had just been filled by Andrew Frere Smith. He says: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to come back to King’s Lynn and to renew old friendships and hopefully make plenty of new ones. I was a head teacher in the town for a short while before setting up a charity in Dereham that promotes social inclusion and helps those who feel vulnerable and marginalized. To now have the opportunity to work alongside others across the churches of King’s Lynn, in developing their social action projects, is therefore a great thrill and privilege and I really look forward to getting ‘stuck in’.”
For further details of how the CUF can support your church in community outreach: www.cuf.org.uk 0207 898 1647
Churches in the King’s Lynn and Yarmouth areas can contact Andrew and Anna:
Great Yarmouth: Anna Heydon
07471 357072 email@example.com
King’s Lynn: Andrew Frere-Smith
07949 964932 firstname.lastname@example.org