Three Birmingham women were among the recipients of the 2019 Lambeth Awards, presented by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace today. The following received awards:
Canon Jill MacDonald - The Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness
Revd Jessica Foster - The Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation
Ms Shari Brown - The Langton Award for Community Service
The Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness
Jill MacDonald is a licensed reader in the Church of England Birmingham. Since 2011, she has served as minister with primary responsibility for St James, Rounds Green, an outer city estate and one of the 5% most deprived communities in the country. The majority of people are on benefits, a high proportion suffers from abuse of some kind, and a significant percentage of the population suffers from serious mental health issues. Jill MacDonald has transformed the church to be a Jesus-centred, loving and outward-facing witnessing community, with worship led by her (and others she has inspired) that is vibrant, deep and encouraging. It is a growing church, heavily involved in work with young people, families and the elderly.
In terms of its physical structure, Jill MacDonald has transformed a leaking and poorly looked-after 1960s concrete church into a beautiful, welcoming and cared-for resource that speaks to people who come there that they are of value to God and of infinite worth to him. Confidence has replaced apathy and decline; prayer is at the heart of this incredible transformation, and a third of the adult population of the church meets weekly to pray for those living locally. She is also involved with ministry to the staff of St Michael’s CofE High School, Rowley Regis, deputising for the Chaplain on occasion.
As an unpaid lay reader, Jill has given exceptional leadership and service. She is rightly respected – and treated as an equal – by her clergy colleagues, and admired by professionals within the community
The Hubert Walter Award for Reconciliation and Interfaith Cooperation
The Revd Jessica Foster is a permanent deacon whose ministry is worked out in the cross-section between community, interfaith and tackling poverty. She is the Bishop of Birmingham’s Policy Advisor and a tutor at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham.
Jessica established and co-ordinated the Near Neighbours programme in Birmingham. She is influential in the Thrive Together Birmingham partnership between the Church of England Birmingham and Church Urban Fund, and was critical in the development of a Faith and Poverty Conference in February 2015 to which Archbishop Justin contributed.
She was a key player in the development of Places of Welcome which emerged from Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process ‘Giving Hope, Changing Lives’, 2011–2013; there are now approximately 50 Places of Welcome in Birmingham and over 220 across England and Wales.
She led a ‘Women in Leadership’ programme bringing together Muslim, Christian and Jewish women of different social backgrounds; and collaborated with BRAP, a specialist equalities organisation, to develop a model for exploring community cohesion through holding difficult conversations.
Her prophetic courage is also seen in challenging contexts overseas. She co-ordinated a multi-faith initiative to take aid to a refugee charity in Calais and Dunkirk in 2017; organised a pioneering multi-faith visit to Israel/Palestine in 2018; and accompanied the Bishop of Birmingham to Srebrenica.
Jessica has an advisory role with Birmingham City Council on Prevent and Community Cohesion strategies and frequently represents the church at vigils and gatherings responding to hate crime and terrorist activity.
The Langton Award for Community Service
In 2002, Shari Brown was appointed as Project Co-ordinator of the Birmingham Churches Together charity RESTORE, which seeks to welcome, befriend and integrate refugees and asylum seekers. Under her leadership, RESTORE’s role and influence within the city have grown exponentially. It now includes three other full-time members of staff and over 100 volunteer befrienders.
Shari has worked tirelessly in regional networking within the refugee charity sector in Birmingham and the West Midlands, sitting on several boards including the Refugee Health Forum and The Syrian Partnership Board. Shari was a key player in setting up the Hope Projects which offer accommodation and subsistence to destitute asylum-seekers, and has been the Chair of Trustees for several years. She was part of a core group which brought together organisations from across the country to form NACCOM, the No Accommodation Network. She was a founder member of the Birmingham City of Sanctuary movement. She chairs Celebrating Sanctuary which champions refugees’ arts and co-ordinates Refugee Week activities every June. Shari brings a voice from beyond London to the Churches’ Refugee Network.
Alongside her regional and national commitments, Shari still makes time for individuals – listens, empathises and takes action. It is these grass roots connections that empower her to raise awareness and seek policy change.
After 16 years at Restore, Shari moved to Brussels in October 2018 to take up the post of Executive Secretary of the Churches Commission for Refugees in Europe, continuing to seek justice for those fleeing persecution and seeking sanctuary. Her contribution in this field has been outstanding.