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Responding to local needs

by Michael Ford last modified 12 Nov, 2018 04:18 PM

From the first launderette in a church building, to a trust fund that provides small grants for single parent families in crisis, a national survey has revealed that churches across the Diocese of Salisbury are active in service of their local communities.

Responding to local needs

Lucy Duffy at SP2, Salisbury

The biggest ever survey of churches and social action has shown that almost half of respondents were running at least one community project and many of our churches run more than one, everything from providing lunch clubs, parent and toddler groups, community cafes to youth clubs, and other activities, including support for foodbanks, and homelessness projects.

Colin Brady, Social Justice Programme Manager said:
“The national Statistics for Mission exercise demonstrates the generous and sacrificial activity of church members in the face of local needs.
“It’s particularly good to see how the work of our smaller congregations stands up against the national averages. It’s no surprise that larger churches in urban areas will be involved in a whole range of social action, but many of our smaller churches are supporting local foodbanks, and providing community meals that tackle loneliness and isolation, and hosting parent and toddler groups.
"Our parishes have embraced the benefits of working in partnership with others; we don’t have to do everything on our own. Joining up with other churches or groups releases energy and time that is of real service and benefit to our communities.”

But he added that the Diocese has a longstanding commitment to social action, including projects that could not feature in this survey.

“Chaplaincy to Gypsies and Travellers, for example, covers the whole Diocese and provides advocacy and support for our largest ethnic minority communities. The Mothers’ Union runs holiday programmes for single parent families, a virtual baby project that educates young people in family life issues, and has provided packs for refugee families hosted in Wiltshire and Dorset.
“These projects all involve local parishioners and tell a much bigger story than that shown in the survey."

Local churches have recently provided homes for Syrian refugees. An initiative providing sites for social housing on church-owned land was the inspiration for a national project. Work with ex-offenders also stands out as a national exemplar. 

“Faithworks Wessex provides support for churches involved in a range of projects and the Diocesan Social Welfare Fund has been able to provide a grant that enabled them to launch a new Street Support project for homeless people in the Bournemouth and Poole areas.

“As the home of the foodbank movement through our friends at the Trussell Trust, we have become all too aware of the impact of cuts and changes to the benefits system that have had such a terrible impact on so many people who are least able to get by without that support.

“Our parishes are doing what they can, but we have to address the way our society as a whole responds to social need, and that needs political engagement, education, and campaigning.”

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