Keeping Our Feet Dirty
As a teacher and practitioner at heart, there are times when I want to get away from policy, theory and strategy and get cracking on the ground. That’s why, in the FaithAction team, we are keen to get out and see members in their own settings, reflect on what we find out there, and how we can support this work.
Last week, I was in Birmingham. I was invited to address the Free Church Leaders Group, but I also had the opportunity to see a number of projects linked to the Salvation Army. I was shown round by Major Adrian Stringer, who typifies so many from faith-based organisations, with a quiet passion to make a difference and to challenge what we do and how effective it is. We kicked off with Edward at the William Booth Centre which supports people to go from homelessness into independent living. Their tag line ‘More than a place to stay’ not only aptly describes the work of the Salvation Army but so many other faith-based projects as well. There is so much more that needs to be done to provide for people – it is not just the physical work, but the insightful problem-solving and, at times, the challenge.
Part of FaithAction’s programme this year will involve having a number of roundtables to draw together the lessons learned and to gather evidence of what faith-based impact looks like. There will be roundtables on homelessness and domestic violence.
Afterwards, we met with Sister Margaret at St Chad’s Sanctuary, working with asylum seekers and refugees from across the globe – just look at that map! They are real dynamos of activity, walking that careful line of supporting people who have faced hardship and exploitation and who expect to continue to face that where whether they go. The staff are all volunteers and there is certainly no wastage – as I was offered a welcome cup of tea, a volunteer came in with a tray of leftover sandwiches left over from a governor’s meeting.
Next, it was off to see the Salvation Army shelter for vulnerable women and children escaping domestic violence. Not only was this a safe and secure place, but the Salvation Army has invested in a pleasant building that speaks of restoration and tranquility. This is not a ‘throwing the scraps off the table to charity’ approach but an excellence that communicates value to people who need to hear it.
It is these sorts of organisation that we want to support with our Together in Service fund and our new Innovation fund, linked to our Creative English programme. I am looking forward seeing what people get up to!