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New Commission on Urban Life and Faith launched

The Commission on Urban Life and Faith, launched today in the House of Lords, will "promote a vision of urban life which analyses and addresses the realities of its delights, injustices and its needs". It will spotlight work, especially by faith communities, that makes a difference in disadvantaged areas.

Working in an innovative and creative way, the Commission will listen to and reflect on the experiences of individuals in urban communities. Reporting at the end of 2005, having held conferences, consultations and festivals up and down the country, its findings will be available to inform government views on urban issues. The government's own report, The State of our Cities and Towns, is also due to be published in 2005.

The Commission on Urban Life and Faith is chaired by the Reverend Baroness Kathleen Richardson, a Methodist minister and Moderator of the Churches Commission for Inter Faith Relations. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Reverend John Sentamu, is the Vice-Chairman. Other members of the Commission have been drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, denominations and faiths. The Commission was initiated by the House of Bishops of the Church of England and is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Faith in the City, the groundbreaking urban poverty study.

Baroness Richardson said: "I am delighted to be asked to chair this Commission. The work ahead is both stimulating and exciting. It will involve a fresh look at all the dynamics that impact on our cities."

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, stressed the importance of the Commission and commented: "Real commitment involves listening to and learning from those in most need. By working together with them, with different faiths, with the government and the voluntary and community sector, we can make a real difference to people's lives."

The Rt Hon Paul Boateng, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "The role of faith groups in community regeneration and renewal is vital. The Government applauds this initiative on the 20th anniversary of 'Faith in the City'; my colleagues and I welcome the opportunities for effective partnership that it will undoubtedly offer."

Notes
Faith in the City, published in 1985, was the Report of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Urban Priority Areas, set up by Archbishop Robert Runcie, and was a call for action to church and nation. The report highlighted the growing number of people and places that were experiencing disadvantage and exclusion at a time when others were experiencing economic boom.

The charitable trusts contributing to the work of this Commission to date are the Church Urban Fund and the Tudor Trust.

The Urban Bishops Panel is a recognised group of Church of England bishops. It includes the Bishops of Aston, Beverley, Bradwell, Carlisle, Hulme, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Plymouth, Ripon and Leeds, Sheffield, Swindon, Willesden, Wolverhampton and Woolwich.

Commission on Urban Life and Faith: members

Reverend Baroness Richardson of Calow
Methodist minister, past President of the Methodist Conference, past Moderator of the Free Churches Council, past President of Churches Together in England and currently Moderator of the Churches Commission for Inter Faith Relations.

The Rt Revd Dr John Sentamu BA LLB MA PHD FRSA; Bishop of Birmingham.
John Sentamu was born in Uganda in 1949. He studied law at Makerere University. He is an Advocate of the High Court of Uganda. He left Uganda in 1974 and obtained a doctorate in Theology at Cambridge University. Ordained in 1979, he was vicar in Tulse Hill from 1983 until 1996 when he was consecrated as Bishop of Stepney. In 2002, he was appointed the 8th Bishop of Birmingham. From 1997-1999 he was also an Adviser to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Inquiry. He is Chairman of the Haemoglobinopathy Screening Programme from 2001; Chairman of EC1 New Deal from 2002; Chairman of the Damilola Taylor Review, 2002. Fellow of University College of Christ Church Canterbury; Fellow of Queen Mary College, University of London; Doctor of the Open University; Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Gloucestershire; Doctor of Divinity of the University of Birmingham: Freeman of the City of London, 2000.

The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe; Bishop of Hulme (Manchester Diocese)
Past Chairman Newham Council for Voluntary Services and member of the Council Social Service Committee. Honorary canon of Chelmsford 1985-88; Chelmsford Diocese Urban Officer 1986-88. Archdeacon of Sheffield and Canon residentiary 1988-99. Chairman, Sheffield Somalia Refugees Trust 1990-94; Chairman of the Diocesan Faith in the City Committee 1988-99, Yorkshire Humberside Regional Advisory Council of the BBC 1992-96 and of the Diocesan Responsibility Committee 1988-99. He served on the Commission into National Church Institutions and was a trustee of the Church Urban Fund and chaired its Grants Committee 1993-96. Cadbury Fellowship on Churches involvement in urban empowerment process. Passionate interest in urban ministry and regeneration and is a member of the Urban Bishops Panel. He is a Church Commissioner and deputy chairman of the Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee.

The Rt Revd Bernard Longley, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster
Studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and New College, Oxford. Ordained to the priesthood in December 1981 at St John's Seminary, Wonersh and was assistant priest at St Joseph's Epsom and Chaplain to Psychiatric Hospitals. Appointed Surrey Chairman of Diocesan Commission for Christian Unity in 1991 and appointed National Ecumenical Officer at the Catholic Bishop's Conference in 1996. Moderator of the Steering Committee of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland in 1999 and appointed Assistant General Secretary of Catholic Bishop's Conference with responsibilities for Ecumenism and Inter Faith Affairs. Ordained Bishop on 24th January 2003.

Catherine Howarth
Community organiser with London Citizens. For three years she has worked in East London, running a campaign for a 'London Living Wage' amongst outsourced cleaning, security and catering staff. In addition to securing a number of significant improvements to workers' pay and conditions, the campaign has brought together East London congregations and trade union branches into a permanent coalition working for social and economic justice. Previously, Catherine was senior researcher at the New Policy Institute. Her work on indicators of poverty and social exclusion for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation became one of the Foundation's best known annual publications. Catherine is a practising Roman Catholic. She lives in Camden Town.

The Revd Graham Cook
A Minister of the United Reformed Church, born and educated in Liverpool. Trained at Northern College, Manchester and Manchester University. Minister in Blackburn (1963-1969), Minister/leader of South Leeds Team Ministry (1969-1985); First Director of the United Reformed Church's Training Centre in Windermere (1985-1994); Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church (1990-91); Moderator of the Mersey Synod of the United Reformed Church (1994-2004). Also served as Chairman of Leeds Council of Voluntary Service (1976-80); Chairman Leeds West Community Health Council (1974-1977); Member Leeds Western Area Health Authority (1982-1985); Member Manpower Services Commission Area Board (1980-1985); Member BBC Northern Advisory Council (1974-77); Chairman BBC Radio Leeds Advisory Council (1979-1982); Chairman of Leeds Pottery Project (1983-85). Also a broadcaster/author/journalist and Preacher of the Gospel.

Dilwar Hussain
Research Fellow at the Islamic Foundation, Leicester. He is on the editorial board of the journal Encounters: Journal of Inter-Cultural Perspectives (bi-annual) and is involved in a number of European research networks and projects. In addition to academic research on Islam he is active with various community organisations such as the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), the Citizen Organising Foundation (COF), the Islamic Society of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain. Dilwar is married and lives in Leicester.

Dr Rob Furbey
Principal Lecturer in Urban Sociology at Sheffield Hallam University. His teaching and research have focused on housing, regeneration and social inclusion. Previous research has included an evaluation of the Church Urban Fund. In 2003, he co-authored a report funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on engaging faith communities in urban regeneration. Rob is an Anglican and a former member of the Social Responsibility Committee of the Diocese of Sheffield.

Professor Elaine Graham
Educated at the Universities of Bristol and Manchester; Northern Regional Secretary, Student Christian Movement, 1981-84; Lay Ecumenical Chaplain, Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University), 1984-88; Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Social & Pastoral Theology, University of Manchester, 1988-98; Samuel Ferguson Professor of Social & Pastoral Theology, 1998-date. Author of numerous books and articles on pastoral theology, religion, culture and gender, and Christian social ethics. Current research interests: role of faith communities in urban regeneration and civil society; theological and ethical implications of new technologies. She is a practising member of the Church of England.

Dean Pusey
Southwark Diocesan Youth Adviser. Dean, a committed Christian, was born and educated in South-East London where he lived for 29 years and also worked within the London boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark across statutory, community and faith sectors. As Southwark Diocesan Youth Adviser, the context of his work within the Anglican Church is among some of the most vibrant and diverse but also challenging urban communities in South London. He is committed to working with young people and those who accompany them, particularly from black and minority ethnic communities, in order that they fulfil their potential.

Sharon Palmer
Sharon has worked in the field of strategy and policy development in the statutory and Non Governmental Organisations / civil society sectors (including Diocesan and Synodical structures) in both a paid and voluntary capacity for many years. Her work in economic development, social care planning and regional strategy and policy in the West Midlands gives her considerable insight into urban life. Her work as a member of Bishop's Council over the term of two Diocesan Bishops' has involved her in strategic reviews and the development and delivery of a highly successful residential holiday programme for young people within inner cities. Coupled with the experience of working with Save the Children Fund on development issues both home and abroad, Sharon brings a wealth of skills and knowledge of urban life and regeneration to the commission's work. In her own words, 'all this experience has given me a zest for life'.

The Rev'd Pamela Ingham
Born 1947 in the West End, often described by the press as the wild west end, of Newcastle upon Tyne, where I lived and worked as a volunteer and paid community development worker until my ordination to the priesthood in 1996. I am married to Harry with two married daughters and 2 grandchildren. I am currently working on an urban housing estate to the North West of Newcastle trying to help local Christians to develop outreach to the local community. My main work interests are anything to do with children, young people, urban mission and evangelism and developing people's skills in order for this to happen. I firmly believe that every person has the potential for growth and am good at encouraging that growth to happen. I have a heart for the inner city and for all that happens within it. I am not afraid to speak my mind on all kinds of urban issues and love to debate the future role of the church within it.

The Rev'd Stuart Murray Williams
Stuart spent 12 years as an urban church planter in Tower Hamlets (East London) and has continued to be involved in church planting since then as a trainer, mentor, writer, strategist and consultant. For 9 years he was Oasis Director of Church Planting and Evangelism at Spurgeon's College, London and he remains an Associate Lecturer of the college. He is chair of the UK Anabaptist Network and the editor of Anabaptism Today. He has written several books on church planting, urban mission, the challenge of post-Christendom and the contribution of the Anabaptist tradition to contemporary missiology. Since September 2001, he has been working under the auspices of the Anabaptist Network as a trainer and consultant, with particular interest in emerging forms of church. He is also overseeing Urban Expression, a pioneering urban church planting agency, and working part time as Tutor in Community Learning at Regent's Park College, Oxford, from where he directs the DELTA training programme that is run by three Baptist colleges.

Commission officers: Ann Morisy and Helen Patterson

Commission on Urban Life and Faith: Questions and Answers

Whose idea was the Commission?
In 2002, the General Synod asked the Archbishops' Council to consider how it might mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Faith in the City and, in particular, consider the need for a wider review of the Church of England's urban mission. In response to this, the Urban Bishops Panel (the subcommittee of the House of Bishops concerned with urban affairs) initiated the Commission endorsed by the Archbishops, the Archbishops' Council and the House of Bishops.

What is the Commission?
The Commission on Urban Life and Faith is a group of experienced practitioners on urban issues drawn from different communities around England, all of whom have a commitment to improve life in disadvantaged urban areas. The Commission's aim is to promote a realistic and positive vision of urban life and the contribution of people of faith, based on an analysis of the tension, delights, injustices and needs of contemporary city and urban living.

Why is a Church of England Commission involving people from other denominations and faiths?
The initiative for the Commission came from the Urban Bishops' Panel. Although its origins are in the Church of England, it has broadened out. In recognition of how urban contexts are now diverse in culture, ethnicity and faith, the Reverend Baroness Kathleen Richardson has invited a diverse group of people to give their expertise and insights.

How long will the Commission be in place?
The Commission has a two-year life span but it is expected that work set in hand by the Commission will continue thereafter.

When will it report and to whom?
The 20th anniversary of the publication of the Faith in the City report occurs in December 2005 and the Commission has been asked to produce a report that acknowledges the significance of this anniversary. However, the Commission intends to use participative approaches, producing interim reports and promoting events including festivals that will focus the attention of the churches and the wider community on the issues that are faced in urban areas in England. It will try to demonstrate the effectiveness of churches and other faiths' work in deeply disadvantaged areas, often where other agencies have struggled. The reports and research should form a significant resource for those concerned with urban issues, for example the Government, the voluntary and community sector as well as faith communities.

How does the Commission relate to the Church Urban Fund (CUF)?
The Commission is building on the remarkable success story of the Church Urban Fund. Since it was established in response to Faith in the City, CUF has distributed nearly £49 million to local initiatives in the most deprived communities in the country. The Church Urban Fund plays a pivotal role at both local and national level, enabling churches and other faith groups to impact profound deprivation in ways that make a lasting difference and by demonstrating their tremendous contribution to the strengthening of communities. CUF is providing funding, extensive grass roots knowledge and expertise to assist the work of the Commission.

How does it relate to the ODPM's "the State of our Cities" report due out in 2005?
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is due to publish a report on the "State of our Cities and Towns" in 2005. The Commission will work closely with Government, sharing knowledge and experience, but the Commission's reports will be independent.

How is the Commission financed?
The Commission is being financed through sponsorship and grant aid from a variety of sources. The Commission is very grateful to its sponsors to date, Church Urban Fund and the Tudor Trust, without whom this project would not be able to go ahead.

Why just focus on the urban and cities?
The initiative came originally from the Urban Bishops' Panel whose main focus is on the urban. There is a distinctiveness of urban issues, such as diversity, extensive areas of deprivation and the impact of globalisation. These dynamics all impact particularly on cities and it is important that more work is done to encourage people to appreciate these dynamics. Getting urban policy right is of interest to all communities in our predominantly urban society.

How can I be involved?
The Commission is encouraging everyone with an interest in this area to participate. A website is currently being set up but you can get in touch with the Commission by emailing culf@c-of-e.org.uk or writing to the Commission at Commission on Urban Life and Faith, Church House, Great Smith Street, LONDON, SW1P 3NZ.
Terms of reference for the Commission on Urban Life and Faith issued by the Urban Bishops' Panel

1. To examine and evaluate progress made by both Church and Nation in improving the life of those living in urban areas;
2. To identify and articulate the significant changes in urban communities that have resulted from de-industrialisation, population movements and the impact of globalization;
3. To reflect on the challenge which God may be making to the Church and Nation;
4. To offer a vision of urban society, and the church's presence and witness in it, at the beginning of the twenty first century;
5. To make recommendation to the appropriate bodies.

From these terms of reference the following purpose and aims have been drafted by the Commission:

To promote a vision of urban life which analyses and addresses the realities of its glories, injustices and needs.

Aims

1. To discern and promote a positive vision of urban society, and the churches' presence and witness within it;

2. To identify and celebrate strategies and approaches that churches and other faith communities have developed since Faith in the City that have made a positive contribution to communities and which are models of good practice;

3. To listen to and work with the stories of those in marginal situations across faith, generations, culture and ethnicity in order to make a positive impact on the future of urban life and faith;

4. To make recommendations about active citizenship in relation to the flourishing of civil society and the future development of our cities;

5. To identify the consequences of taking urban ministry seriously, especially in areas of poverty, in order to make recommendations to the churches and others.

SHOWCASING GRASSROOT INITIATIVES

Twenty years ago when 'Faith in the City' was published there were only a few examples of local churches engaging in social action. The situation now is very different. Large numbers of churches, especially churches in deeply deprived neighbourhoods now run community projects that provide support for people scarred by the problems of urban life.

The Commission on Urban Life and Faith aims to give a platform to these many and varied initiatives. They demonstrate clearly the relevance of local churches and the exceptional innovation and expertise of Christians who are committed to living and working in tough neighbourhoods. The contribution that churches can make to improve urban life has not been fully understood or appreciated. The new Commission wants to put this right.

o The Meadow Well Estate in North Tyneside has undergone a makeover since it was hit by riots ten years ago. But poverty is still widespread and that means that for many debt is a problem. Doorstep lenders are reckoned to collect over £10,000 a week from families on the estate. The Cedarwood Trust was established in 1980 by Newcastle Diocese and North Tyneside Council. It is a church linked pastoral care organisation helping people cope with life on low incomes. Cedarwood offers help with debt in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB). Through a credit union it enables local people to both save and borrow and escape from the door-to-door market with its high cost loans. The Cedarwood Trust, under the guidance of Margaret Nolan also has been active in the campaign to persuade the Government to take action against loan sharks. So far, with the support of Church Action on Poverty and the 'Debt on your Doorstep' campaign, the Department of Trade and Industry has been persuaded to fund research into the possibility of capping the interest rates that door-to-door loan companies can charge. But the pressure on the Government, based on the hard won experience and research of the Cedarwood Trust and other initiatives like it, will not stop until there is a change in the law and extortionate interest rates are no longer a hazard for poor communities.

For more information about what the Cedarwood Trust is doing on the Meadow Well Estate contact David Peel or Margaret Nolan tel 0191 259 0245

o Somewhere Else is a place in Liverpool's city centre. Somewhere Else is a suite of rooms above a bookshop on Bold Street. Two or three times a week the smell of bread baking wafts from these rooms. People gather, such as a couple of Big Issue sellers, some young mums, a former monk or religious sister, or some refugees to spend time making bread - one loaf for themselves and one to give away. Somewhere Else is the occasional meeting place for those who usual only communicate on the internet to explore issues of faith. It is a place where those who are often excluded can find a community in which they have an important place. Somewhere Else takes seriously the idea that church is more a process rather than a place and this means it is a place of friendship, support, challenge creativity and laughter. Somewhere Else tries to express the reality of God's love, not restricted by dogma or creed, but as something bigger and more inclusive than we can ever imagine.

For more information about Somewhere Else contact the Rev'd Dr. Barbara Glasson tel 0151 706 0155

o REGENERATE.com began with the elderly people who live on the extensive estates in Roehampton, south-west London. Mo Smith and her son, Andy, both with experience in working with older people, were indignant at the news that the pensioners' lunch club on the estate was due to close. Having both worked in a local authority day centre, they approached the local council offering to initiate a project that not only worked with the elderly but set up new projects in the area. With the support of the local church, REGENERATE.com based in the Methodist Church hall on the estate has gone from strength to strength A resident from the estate came up with a unique idea, suggesting that a banquet was laid on to treat the older people on the estate as 'Kings and Queens' and with a group of staff and volunteers they made it a reality. Following a very successful event, it is hoped that each summer the giant marquee will arrive at the centre of the estate for the 'Kings and Queens' celebration. The local community are recruited to 'wait-on' tables, to entertain and to share in the festivities that carry the message that the older population on the Roehampton estates are very special indeed. From working with older people, REGENERATE.com has developed work with young people: A Juice Bar that is open most evenings, football clubs and Sure24 - a new way of doing 'Sunday School'. And then there is the Joseph Project, which works with local schools, and the Youth Inclusion Project. This partnership means that each year up to eight residential events are hosted for young people from the estates. Abseiling, rock climbing, quad biking, archery and cliff jumping are all on offer so that some of the most disadvantaged - and sometimes disruptive - young people have opportunities and experiences like they have never had before.

For more information about REGENERATE.com contact Andy Smith on 020 8878 8648/8632 or e-mail Mo Smith on mosmith@regeneratecom.co.uk or visit www.regeneratecom.co.uk

o Kidz Klub was an idea that began in New York, but for the last five years it's been alive and thriving in Page Moss in Merseyside. Each week, after school, 150 kidz gather for 'Thursday Klub'. Each one of them would have had a visit from one of the 25 volunteers (all local people) in the previous week. The activity sheet for the forthcoming Thursday would be delivered, the highlight of the event would be shared - and a warm invitation issued. Kidz Klub aims to be a safe place, so discipline is a high priority - yes at Kidz Klub 150 kids will sit straight and sit quietly if you ask them to, but they'll also roll around with laughter and playful delight as the pace and zany antics of the core team (who'll have rehearsed all afternoon) that engross the youngsters who are aged between four and eleven. Over 2000 children have been on the books over the five years that Phil Clark has worked with his team in Page Moss. And as the kidz get older provision is also made for them - TNT caters for older youngsters as well as training apprentice leaders for Thursday Klub. And now there are ladies nights - with the kidz 'waiting-on', entertainment, bingo and fashion shows. Kidz Klub provides a way in which the potential threat of scally kidz on the estate can be reduced, and the kidz themselves can begin to recognise that they have more choices than they realise about how their life can work out.

For more information about Kidz Klub in Page Moss contact Phil Clark tel 0151 480 0833

o St Michael's Camden Town has developed ministry to a post Christian community.
St Michael's Church in Camden is well nigh derelict - at least the building is. This is the result of declining congregations for more than fifty years. Camden Town is probably the trendiest, coolest place in Britain. Each weekend tens of thousands of stylistas visit Camden Town for the latest gear. However Camden Town is also home to longstanding residents, some rich, some poor and some who are refugees and asylum seekers. On the streets there also signs of intense distress associated with mental illness, addiction and homelessness. The congregation at St Michael's (now numbering over 150) have decided to live with their tumble down church in order to concentrate on revitalising the church hall - re-christened the Upper Room. Here asylum seekers make music, have lunch and access advice. The Ministry of Sound takes young churchgoers clubbing in the area's top nightspots. The regular Tea Dances have built a network of over a hundred older people. A drama group has been set up for Moslem children. Monthly "Banquets" are hosted for a dozen local people at a time to share their vision for their neighbourhood. An annual festival for Camden Town has been established which aims to bring together the extraordinarily diverse communities. Celebration and creativity - and the habit of saying yes to ideas and offers of involvement are the hallmarks of what is happening at St Michael's -and a near derelict building has as a result become open to everyone - and an asset to cool Camden.

For more information about St Michael's Camden Town contact Fr. Nicholas Wheeler 020 7424 0724