New report calls on church to extend work with SE1 community

Anglican church leaders in SE1 and surrounding areas were encouraged last week to extend their work in the local community. They should continue to work with other faith groups to offer the best possible help to the rapidly changing area, says a new study

In a gathering at Christ Church Southwark, Catriona Robertson presented the results of her four month study to local clergy and civic officers.

The clergy have been looking seriously at the changing face of their area and asking how best they can respond to its needs over the next 20 years. They commissioned Mrs Robertson to research the church's current work in the community and to explore implications for its future work, taking account of the extensive regeneration in the area.

Catriona Robertson is a psychologist with wide experience of community development. She is also Lay Chair of Clapham Deanery, and undertook the research on behalf of a 'Regeneration' group working in the Diocese of Southwark with the Deaneries of Southwark & Newington, North Lambeth and Bermondsey. She found that in this area where a wealthy riverside quickly gives way to some of the most extreme deprivation, 20% of the population are members of a faith community. The churches and other faiths are commonly engaged in community work apart from religious services, and there is already cooperation between local government and voluntary bodies including the faith groups.

As part of her research she posted a message on the London SE1 forum back in March, to which several website visitors responded.

Her report says: "The faith communities are well placed to play a part in holding the values of the community, to play a part in the social cohesion of the area (since they negotiate many of these challenges themselves), and to play a part in brokering the relationship between business interests, government initiatives and plans, and the local community. They are also well placed to call attention to such inequality, poverty, ill health and exclusion continuing to exist in the heart of a world city."

The report proposes that the Anglican Deaneries bring together a pro-active team to take the proposals forward through a series of conferences or gatherings over the next three years.

Funding for the research, which cost 15,000, came from the Church Urban Fund, the local boroughs, and the Government Office for London. The research was initiated and managed by a Regeneration Working Group, led by Canon Grahame Shaw, Rural Dean of Southwark and Newington.

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