Celebrating Church and Community: Better Together
31 July 2019 by Philippa Barker

Celebrating Church and Community: Better Together

Churches and communities thrive when engaged with each other. Results from a survey* show that our local parish churches are out in front in making community engagement an integral part of vision, mission and worship.

Social action statistic 1

The report detailed the results of a survey that measured community-focussed activity across the Church of England. Although we are one of the smallest and poorest Dioceses, Birmingham shows above average statistics in terms of our involvement with such activities, illustrating the many ways our churches of all sizes and means are working alongside local communities to tackle issues of poverty and injustice.

91% of our churches are engaged in community activity

Many churches across the Diocese are partnering with their local communities to tackle issues of poverty and disadvantage. 91% of churches that responded to the survey said they were engaged with disadvantaged groups in their communities in one or more ways, and 65% of reported that they were working alongside other local groups to run at least one community activity.

Birmingham churches are involved with 600 community activities across the city region, from foodbanks to job clubs to night shelters…

Social Action stat 2The survey showed that across our city region; our parish churches big and small, and whatever their means, are playing their part in helping their neighbourhoods to flourish, working with communities on over 600 community activities. While some of these churches run projects themselves (275 in total), other churches opened their doors to host another 93 projects and a further 95 were carried out in partnerships with other organisations. What’s more, an additional 148 initiatives were supported by churches in other ways, for example through donations, resources and volunteers.

Food banks are the most commonly supported type of community activity by Birmingham churches

72% of churches of our churches said they supported food banks in some way, often with volunteers and/or donations, as well as in partnerships with other organisations. Churches also reported to be engaging with different groups in their local communities through a wide range of other types of community projects, including parent/carer and toddler groups, lunch clubs, job clubs, night shelters for the homeless, community cafés, youth work, holiday/breakfast clubs, money/debt advice - as well as through other pastoral provision.

Social ACtion stat 3

Beyond the statistics

As well as these encouraging stats, we’ve heard many exciting stories over the past year or so of the generous, innovative and community-focused ways churches across the Diocese are engaging with their communities in tackling poverty, injustice and disadvantage, building community, trust and friendships as a result.

Below are just a few of the many examples of how our churches make community engagement and mission central to their worship and vision; bringing and receiving hope and transformation from people living in their local neighbourhoods.

Birchfield Job Club

Revd Canon Eve Pitts, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Birchfield, witnessed the negative impact long-term unemployment was having on many in the local community. Enlisting the help of members of her congregation, as well as connecting with organisations who could provide support, advice and training, the church set up a job club. Every Thursday morning a team of volunteers open up the church hall and welcome in jobseekers from the local community. Providing them with practical skills and a safe space to talk through their concerns, the aim of Job Club is to restore dignity, self-worth and hope in each person they meet. Read more about their story here.

Chelmund's Fish & Chips

After hearing older members of the community lamenting the loss of the local chippy, Mike Harmon, the vicar of St. Andrew’s Church, and Neil Roberts, the minister of Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church, recognised an innovative, if a little unorthodox, way they could meet a need in the community and share something of God’s generous heart. In opening Chelmund's Fish & Chips, their aim was to bring people together, create a sustainable income stream for the community, provide employment opportunities for locals, as well as training for young people. Find out more here.

Holiday Kitchen

St Thomas' Church in Garretts Green set up Holiday Kitchen to bring together local families with school age children who would miss the provision of school meals and the social interactions of school life during the six-week summer break. New friendships were made as volunteers, parents and children ate breakfast together, shared in games, crafts and other fun activities, before preparing and eating lunch together also. Read more about their story here.

St Edburgha’s Place of Welcome

Dog-walkers, isolated elderly folk, homeless men, churchgoers and young people looking for Pokémon all congregate at this Place of Welcome in Yardley – open every Friday morning to anyone who just wants a bit of company, a cup of tea and a chat. Sylvia, one of the hosts, sums it up: “This all began because instead of looking at the homelessness and alcoholism in the area and just going: ‘Tut tut, this is dreadful’ we thought: ‘How do we respond to this as a church?’” Read more here.

* Church of England Statistics for Mission 2017 report, Birmingham specific dataset