My final visit to churches who had received development funding grants was to St Andrews, Clubmoor in Liverpool. Steve McGanity has been vicar at St Andrews since before I was a curate in Haydock! Clubmoor is one of the most deprived communities in the UK (in the top 1% on most indicators). To give you some idea of the problems that they face – 36% of children are growing up in poverty, 33% of pensioners are living in poverty, 23% of working age people are on benefits, 42% of adults have no qualifications.
St Andrews has a tradition of engaging with people who might otherwise be marginalised in society. They have a thriving mixed church which has sought to engage with its community. These links are paying off with a local state primary school (not church aided) leasing them a wing of their school at a peppercorn rent. Visiting it was to see a hive of activities that were being used to meet some real needs of the community. Amongst the many ministries that they run there were:
- A well stocked foodbank
- Debt counselling
- Mental health group (they are hoping to move into the area of well-being)
- Family Support
- Second hand clothing
- Business development – helping people with their CV’s. This is especially needed for those who have been in prison or rehab.
They are looking to start some new businesses that could employ people as well. Ideas include a coffee shop, craft skills and an energy company to broker prices for people. They have discovered that people are coming to St Andrews with a very different background. Some who were members of a local recovery clinic started coming and their direct way of speaking (coming out of their being on recovery programmes) are making a real difference to the way the church lives its life together. Indeed some 40% of the church are or have been diagnosed with mental health and addiction issues.
One of their key issues has been looking at how their community network overlaps. They have found, for example, that someone accessing the Foodbank may be too embarrassed to access the other services that could help them to gain employment or address other issues in their life.
Another issue is that they are looking at how to build relationships between the social activity network and the church. Part of this they realise is because they were set up separately rather than being integrated in the first instance (similar to some of what Tong in Bradford is experiencing). Although they have about a hundred volunteers it’s sometimes hard not to use the word ‘client’ in regard to people using the social activities. One of the ways that they are looking to intentionally change this is by the appointment of two community pastors (out of their funding). One with a focus on those recovering from addictions and the other working on how the services provided relate to faith. This then is aimed to help people connect with the community of faith.
One of the core elements of the church is their Missional Community Groups. These groups have different focii. Some are based around an area of ministry – e.g. Kidz Klub, Start (an arts based MCG), or Hand-in-Hand (working with the marginalised, lonely and addicted). Others are based geographically such as Life in Larkhill. Each has up to twenty from church but can have many others from the community (so Kidz Klub has up to eighty in it). They still have issues to do with focussing on task rather than building an outwardly focussed community but they are in the process of looking at how this can be addressed.
Like Glo and Kings Church their focus is on a balance of up/in and out – in other words ensuring a balance of worship, community and mission. They too are using Lifeshapes to provide a common language and framework for what they are doing.