Last week the Community Engagement team hosted an event to celebrate Livability’s link churches at the Bear Church (Shaftesbury Christian Centre) in Deptford , South East London. The day provided a great opportunity for the link church leaders to gather with senior staff from Livability including Dave Webber, CEO and Caroline Armitage, chair of trustees. The day also saw the launch of a report “Loving and serving since 1844’ presenting the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of the churches.
Livability’s link churches have been an integral part of the charity since its very earliest days- operating in some of the most under resourced communities across London. Lord Shaftesbury passionately supported mission halls which opened across the capital to respond to the direst poverty and need. Such places were often where the Ragged Schools operated from to offer education to the impoverished children of London. Shaftesbury urged local Christians across the denominations to help him to ‘love, serve – in Jesus’ name’ This key work isn’t unique to Livability’s Shaftesbury roots as John Grooms similarly supported Christian mission halls engaged in pioneering work.
“Today, those mission halls live on as Livability’s ‘link churches’. They still work in London’s most challenging neighbourhoods, marred by social exclusion, wealth inequality and significantly lower levels of health and wellbeing. Creatively and faithfully, they seek solutions by working with the often-neglected strengths of their local communities. Within the report we tell the story of 11 of these extraordinary churches, then and now. We celebrate the way they continue to live out Livability’s vision of a transformed society, where disabled and disadvantaged people can live life to the full.”
Director of Community Engagement & Communications
The event itself was attended by church leaders from the various link churches from all over London from Battersea to Stratford and from Dagenham to North Kensington. 14 Link churches remain from the original mission engaged in holistic Christian community engagement supporting and working with the local community. Through interviews on the day a number of the churches were able to describe more about what they are currently involved with;
Joanna and Brian Watts from the Shaftesbury centre in Battersea have been running the church for almost 25 years and have recently opened up a Food Bank in Battersea, South London. They have also partnered with the GP surgery right next door for many years offering joined up support for the community.
Tony Uddin and Fiona Harsiss, from Tower Hamlets Community Church run an innovative youth work programme- the Canaan project – working with at risk young women whom are often neglected by other local youth work. They also run a pioneering night shelter programme for homeless people.
Mary White & Jackie Blanchflower from Latymer Christian Centre in North Kensington- a place known for its extreme wealth spoke of the particular emphasis the centre has on supporting those with poor mental health, often living in the over crowded high rise flats hidden from the North Kensington wealth but right next door to the church.
“These link churches demonstrate practical Christianity that is tangible and rooted in real life experience. I am humbled that Livability’s deep roots are due to the faithful work of those who have gone before, and I’m thrilled for the life that is still flowing from them today.”
Dave Webber Chief Executive
You can read the full ‘Loving and serving since 1844’ report yourself below.
If you would like to receive a hard (printed) copy of the report please contact Livability’s Community Engagement team on firstname.lastname@example.org