East Lothian Poverty Commission

I was most surprised to receive an email a few days before Christmas last year, inviting me to be a member of the East Lothian Poverty Commission. The purpose of the Commission is, over a period of about six months (Feb-July 2016), to gather evidence of the extent and nature of poverty in East Lothian, and to make practical suggestions as to how the ‘cycle of poverty can be broken.’

There are about 9-10 Commissioners, and we are chaired by the Principal of Edinburgh College. Some of the other Commissioners are equally as high powered, but equally some of us are living and working ‘on the ground’ in the County, often with those who have or have had lived experience of poverty.

I was invited to be a Commissioner as Chair of the Musselburgh Area Partnership, but what I do more generally as Church and Community Development Worker in Musselburgh gives me an insight into what it means to live in poverty in this area, and connections to organisations that are working with those who are in poverty. So I can bring something to the table!

My being a Commissioner also means that there is an explicit Christian presence on the Commission, something which doesn’t seem to have happened very often with the various other Poverty or Fairness Commissions that have been established in other Local Authority Districts.

I was delighted to be asked to be one of the Commissioners, and take my membership of the Commission very seriously. I hope and pray that the ideas we come up with at the end of the process will indeed be effective at helping to tackle poverty in East Lothian.

Community Afternoon at Pinkie St Peter Primary School

It was a great afternoon today (Thurs 28th Jan) at Pinkie St Peter Primary School in Musselburgh. As the school comes close to completing its massive extension, the Head is keen to open the school up more to the local community, and held a Community Afternoon today, 2pm-5pm.

Local organisations were able to have stalls in the dining hall, and then the public, parents etc were invited to attend, and to view the stalls, talk to the local organisations, and enjoy free refreshments. It was quiet at first, but from about 3pm onwards it got very busy indeed!

All sorts of local organisations had stalls – the Guides, Tenants and Residents Assoc, the Riding of the Marches, Community Learning and Development, Support from the Start, STRiVE, the Fire Brigade, First Step – and Musselburgh Council of Churches!

i had managed to get the Council of Churches a space in the hall, and the Chair of the Council created a display about its life and about my work, and arranged from some members of the Council to come and staff the stall alongside me.

And I had an extraordinarily wide range of conversations with all sorts of people, some of whom I knew, many of whom I didn’t – about God, faith, volunteering with the forthcoming Heart for Art group. chaplaincy to the school. It was great – and pretty exhausting.

But i was thrilled that the Churches were there in the ‘marketplace’ – showing that we are part of and interested in our local community – and that the Council of Churches took the idea on, so it wasn’t all down to me.

It seems to me that that is exactly what my work should be about, and is about at its best: me securing the place for the Churches at the table or in the market place, and then working with other Christians on using those opportunities to the full.

Many thanks to the Chair and members of the Council of Churches for being so willingly involved, and to the school for arranging the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salt of the Earth, Light of the World

The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes to an end today. Here in Musselburgh, we had a very inspiring service last night at Northesk Church in Bridge Street.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer has been ‘Salt and Light,’ and has been a powerful reminder that part of the calling of the Church is to be, in the words of Jesus, ‘the salt of the earth and the light of the world.’ The preacher at last night’s service reminded us that this meant that Christians were to ‘make a difference’ in the world, by working for peace and justice.

And that is precisely how I understand my purpose as the Church and Community Development Worker for the Church of Scotland in the Musselburgh area – as ‘making a difference’ (indeed, that’s the strapline for Starfish Recovery, with whom I’m heavily involved), as working for peace and justice in our communities, as being ‘salt’ and ‘light.’

But both the published material and the preacher last night were at pains to stress that there is a third calling for the Church and Christians, too. Alongside being salt and light, we are called also to ‘proclaim the Lord’s mighty acts’ (1 Peter 2:9).

And that’s a challenge for me! Do I really and adequately ‘proclaim the Lord’s mighty acts’ in my work and ministry? Am I explicit enough about my Christian faith in the ‘secular’ contexts where I find myself? Are the Celtic Cross and ‘Church of Scotland Community Worker’ on my ‘hoodie’ obvious enough.

That’s a challenge for all of us who are involved in Church-based community engagement. Are we obviously enough Christ’s ambassadors in the ‘world’?

BLESSING OUR COMMUNITIES Conference in Musselburgh Wednesday 18th November

In conjunction with ‘Redeeming our Communities,’ I am organising and hosting a day conference on Wednesday 18th November, 9.30am-4.00pm, at St Andrew’s High Church, High Street and Millhill, Musselburgh.

The one-day event is called ‘Blessing our Communities: Mercy, Justice and Community Engagement’ and will look at ways in which we can seek to bless the communities in which our Churches are set, by showing compassion and mercy, by lobbying for change and by praying in more focussed ways.

We have secured Martin Johnstone, the Secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, to come and give a keynote address. There will also be workshops on Community Engagement; Lobbying for Change and Spirituality in Community Participation, as well as a plenary session and worship.

The idea for the day emerged from a conversation I had with Diane McWilliam, from Redeeming our Communities, where we talked about the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but asked the question, ‘What would have needed to have been done to have made the road safe from bandits in the first place?’. The example of the Good Samaritan leads us into thinking about mercy and compassion, while the question of making the road safer raises the issues of justice and of campaigning for change in society.

These are the issues the day will explore. In that sense, it is of a piece with the emerging ‘Food Justice’ movement – which rightly sees Food Banks as a great example of compassion and mercy but urges us to go ‘Beyond Foodbanks’ to work for a more just society where Foodbanks aren’t needed. It fits with the Church and Society Council’s ‘10,000 Voices for Change’ campaign and with those two well-known sayings: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed for a day; teach a man how to fish and you feed him for life’ and ‘If I give the poor some bread, they call me a saint; if I ask why the poor have no bread, they call me a communist’ (Dom Helder Camara).

The day costs £10, which includes lunch and refreshments. More details and booking at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/blessing-our-communities-mercy-justice-and-community-engagement-tickets-18844461291

Please come – it will be worth it.

MUSSELBURGH COMMUNITY PRAYERS START ON WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 14TH!

At the heart of any Christian work has to be prayer. For the work is God’s work, not ours, and we are merely his instruments to further his Kingdom. Sometimes he uses us, sometimes he works independently of us.

He also clearly commands us to pray. In the Bible, in Jeremiah 29, God tells the Jewish Exiles in Babylon to ‘seek the welfare of the city to which I have sent you AND PRAY TO THE LORD ON ITS BEHALF.’ It seems to me that that commands holds good for us today too.

For a year or so, a small group of us have been meeting to pray together for the Musselburgh town and area, and it feels right to now widen this out and to invite others to join us. And not only to invite others to join us, but to make it possible for people to ask us to pray for certain things, situations, people in the town and area. I see this gathering to pray as a key part of my work as Church and Community Development Worker for the Church of Scotland in Musselburgh. In ways that we can’t fully understand, we find that things change in us and around us when we take praying seriously.

And so, MUSSELBURGH COMMUNITY PRAYERS is being launched.

When? 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month from 14th October at 4pm for about 45 minutes – so 14th and 28th Oct; 11th and 25th Nov; and 9th and 23rd Dec.

Where? St Andrew’s High Church, Musselburgh. The Church site has entrances on both the High Street (by B & M Bargains) and Millhill

Who? Anyone who wants to come along, whether they are a Christian or not

How can I make a Prayer Request? Email it to musselburghcommunityprayers@gmail.com or text it to 07583 495598 and we’ll make sure it is offered to God at our sessions

I invite you to support this important new development in the life of our town and area.

Musselburgh Area Partnership – Annual Public Meeting 24th August 2015 7.30pm

The Musselburgh Area Partnership of the East Lothian Community Planning Partnership is holding its first-ever Annual Public Meeting,.

This is an opportunity for all who live in the Musselburgh Area (including Wallyford, Whitecraig and Craighall) to hear about the what the Area Partnership is trying to achieve as it seeks to improve the quality of life of all who live in our area.

The event will describe HOW the Partnership came into being, WHO its members are, WHAT it is trying to do, and will ask members of the public to comment on the draft ‘Musselburgh Area Plan’. Tea, Coffee and Cakes will be provided!

At the meeting the Chairing of the Area Partnership will be passed on from two senior Council Officers, who have been the acting to Co-Chairs, to a Chair from the local community. Actually, that community Chair is – me! I was elected by the other members of the Area Partnership at the meeting in June, to serve for two years. I have been a member since the Partnership was created, in May 2014, representing the Musselburgh Council of Churches.

The Annual Public Meeting is on MONDAY 24TH AUGUST, at 7.30pm, at MUSSELBURGH EAST COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTRE.

Please spread the word – and come yourself!

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF IT ALL?

What is the Church for? Why am I doing what I am doing? Those are the fundamental questions that I think about often! If I think that the purpose of the Church is only to provide us with an escape from the world, and that our role is to come to worship and to help keep the building and its grounds looking nice and the Church finances secure, then there is little point to what I am doing as a Church community worker. But if I do think that that’s all the Church and we as Christians are for, then I’ve rather missed the point!

 For the purpose of the Church is the glorifying of God and the furthering of the Kingdom of God on earth by word and by deed. The Church exists for those who are not yet its members. We are here to show the love of God for the whole world and for all who are in the world. The Church is called to be the ‘Sign, Instrument and Foretaste of the Kingdom of God,’ to be the salt, yeast and light for the world Jesus spoke of.

And that’s a tall order and a big picture. But it is true! Therefore my question to you – and to your Church and to all that your Church does – is, ‘How are you furthering God’s Kingdom in the Musselburgh Area by what you are doing?’ That task is partly about making our local communities more just, more equitable, fairer for all, places where all can flourish and have shalom – peace, wellbeing, prosperity. But it is also about telling others about God and Jesus and inviting them to find eternal life by accepting Jesus as their living Lord.

I have found quite often that by being involved with others from outside the Church on activities that seek to improve the quality of life for local people, I have been given opportunities to talk about Jesus and Christianity with those ‘on the fringes.’ One day recently, when I spent much of the day helping in the Starfish Recovery café and then called into Blue Triangle with some ‘Starter Pack’ items, I had no less than four separate ‘spiritual’ conversations with people – a customer of the café, two of the other café volunteers and one of the BT project workers. Those conversations don’t readily lead to people becoming Church members, certainly not of the Musselburgh C of S congregations, but they do sow real seeds of the Kingdom in people’s hearts. And I’m only able to have such conversations because I have shown that I and the Church are concerned about folk’s material wellbeing and not just about getting them to be Church members.

So how can I help you and your Church or Group to become more aware of and more engaged with the life of the communities around you, to become more of an agent of the furthering of God’s Kingdom in your area?

Dementia Friendly Musselburgh Launch – how did it go?

It was great! The weather was fine, loads of people came and all sorts of good ideas were put forward.

Sue Northrop of Dementia Friendly East Lothian has put a very full report – with pictures! – onto the DFEL website. You can access it here:

http://dfel.org.uk/blog/d-in-the-park-dementia-friendly-musselburgh/

The challenge now is to work with the local community on making some things happen!

Dementia Friendly Musselburgh Launch Event Sat 27th June 1pm-6pm

The day for the launch event for Dementia Friendly Musselburgh is almost upon us! It is on SATURDAY, 27th JUNE 1PM-6PM in the grounds of ST ANDREW’S HIGH CHURCH, HIGH ST, MUSSELBURGH.

It looks from the forecast that the day will be fine – thank God for that!

There will be activities and entertainment for all the family – a Pipe Band, dance troupes, a Fire Engine, a Face Painter, refreshments, but also a more serious side:-

  • the chance to see the Alzheimer Scotland ‘Dementia Friends’ videos and to register as a Dementia Friend, that is as someone who wants to see our community as more Dementia-friendly and will seek to be Dementia-friendly in their daily life
  • the chance to see the video about the Hollies Day Centre
  • the chance for those with dementia and their carers to say what is good and bad for them in and about Musselburgh
  • the chance for all to say how they can and will help to make Musselburgh and the surrounding area more Dementia-friendly.

We have had the support of lots of local organisations, including Tescos, Greggs and Loretto School, so the main refreshments will be FREE.

The day – and indeed the whole Dementia Friendly Musselburgh initiative – is being fronted by a broad-based partnership, including Alzheimer Scotland, the Church of Scotland (through me!), Carers of East Lothian, Tescos, The Hollies Day Centre, Eskgreen Care Home and many others.

The Church is involved because we see it as part of our call to ‘Love our neighbours as ourselves’ to do all we can to make our Churches and our communities as friendly as they possibly can be for those who live with Dementia and their carers. If we get it right for those with dementia, we will get it right for many other grouos, too.

COME AND JOIN US ON SATURDAY!!!