One of the aims in the Diocese of Portsmouth Council for Social Responsibility is as far as possible to move away from dependency on grant funding. It starts from the recognition that the presence of an Anglican church in most neighbourhoods is an incredible legacy and potential asset. The challenge is how to make it “a dynamic and sustainable resource for our mission and be a centre of light, hope and belief for all? We believe that it is in our local communities where we can see, experience and best understand the extent of change and disadvantage.”
Taken from the Greek work meaning ‘an opportune moment for change’, Kairos involved thinking about how to be God’s church in a way that is deeper (more spiritual), broader (more involved in the local community) and leaner (in its structures). There were periods of theological reflection and times for in-depth research into communities to lead towards more strategic thinking. There was also the chance to work in clusters of parishes or across whole deaneries, to ensure that the work of individual parishes complemented each other.
The diocese went through two cycles of the Kairos process, each focusing on one of the original key issues. The first phase looked at community engagement, and took place during 2004-05. Parishes examined the needs of the communities they served and the resources at their disposal and how those could best be deployed to meet the needs. It resulted in hundreds of community projects being kicked off across the diocese, putting the Church back at the heart of local communities, including plans to build low-cost housing on land owned by the Church, train lay people in pastoral visiting, appoint youth and children’s workers, and build extensions to churches. The second phase launched in 2008 focused on church buildings. 'Buildings' was an issue that appeared to be universal across virtually all parishes. Many successful building projects have since been undertaken.
RPDP was developed by the Council for Social Responsibility (CSR) which is now working with the Church Urban Fund to share the approach nationally. The programme works as a collaboration between selected parishes and the Diocese. It provides an opportunity for parish teams to:
· Develop a positive understanding of the dynamics and opportunities in their community.
· Identify the specific elements that their mission work and/or proposed development will need to include to achieve the desired benefits.
· Present their vision, objectives and ambitions clearly and positively.
Parishes pay a fee to participate in the programme. They are visited by a facilitator prior to starting to get a sense of their issues, context and potential. The programme usually consists of two group workshops, involving three parish teams (a minimum of three – incumbent and two lay members) and a parish presentation. The workshops cover:
· social and cultural challenges facing local churches;
· identifying and engaging with the emerging opportunities in the local area;
· stating clearly the real priorities;
· what is the offer to the local market?
· developing a positive pitch;
· to whom and how will this be sold?
· what do the buildings need to do?
· how can this be resourced to achieve the ambitions set out?
If appropriate, parishes do additional work between workshops engaging with local people to help them identify new opportunities.
An example: St Francis Church, Leigh Park, Havant
Leigh Park is a post-war ‘overspill’ community. We participated in the pilot of the RPDP, which helped to challenge, expand and focus our thinking. When we started, we thought what we wanted was a new hall. Now we realise that we need and can achieve much more: we have come up with a broader, ambitious and inspiring set of ideas. We are organising our emerging plans around the idea of ‘heart of the park’. We have worked with postgraduates and interns from the University Architecture Department (funded by the South East Coastal Communities Project). Whilst originally intended to be at the geographical centre of the community, the town centre was moved after the building of the church had started. The vision now is to fulfil the original vision by using the strengths of the ‘green’ site, provide a community anchor that takes a leading role as the heart of the park and take advantage of our location in relation to the shopping precinct, main schools and other service provision. We have identified groups that we think are under catered for, such as the disabled and young families and we want to provide quality/animating provision.
Our objectives are to:
· improve our offer to Leigh Park as a living local faith-based organisation.
· renew our site and community spaces as a valued high quality local amenity.
· be an environmental exemplar to raise expectations of development in Leigh Park and beyond.
The offer includes:
· flexible spaces for groups, offices, meetings and reopening the crypt as a youth facility.
· improved landscaping opening up space for children’s play, growing food, community events and quiet reflection.
Key emerging learning points include:
· Many parishes lack confidence and morale and are not effectively engaging with their community.
· There is a high level of demand – latent and expressed – for positive change.
· The programme provides useful prompts and tools for understanding the extent and depth of social and cultural change affecting parishes and identifies local dynamics and opportunities.
· Parishes are able to identify priorities for growth and make substantial shifts in their approach, confidence and ‘pitch’.
· The team approach helps to promote parish change and further build a team-based approach.
· In many cases, the proposed (re)development project was unnecessary and would not achieve the objectives. Some parishes abandoned the idea of building altogether, thus saving several million pounds.
· The competencies to develop and deliver (re)development projects are often absent in parishes. Many parishes are being taken advantage of by local contractors.
· All communities have opportunities for parish growth and there are income generation opportunities; for many there is a potential to release assets and generate income and for a virtuous circle of making money from doing good to invest in doing more good.
· The development and mission options worked out have excited and inspired congregations, local communities and stakeholders.
CSR is running programmes in 2011 and 2012 designed to assist clergy and lay people develop creative entrepreneurial skills to help towards viable and sustainable projects. There is also a proposal now to develop a social enterprise in the Portsmouth Diocese to run Kaospilot programmes and to roll it out more widely.
· Focusing on fundraising and investment: larger funding applications to foundations and the lottery to invest in local communities in partnership with parishes and innovative ways of generating resources for investing in parish-based social and community initiatives through mechanisms, such as community bonds and asset release.
· Joint Venture – a potential collaboration between CSR and the Parity Trust (previously Portsmouth Area Regeneration Trust) to be jointly owned by the two main partners and to deliver parish and community-based development projects and reinvest any profits in local projects.
· Encouraging enterprise – supporting the development of parish-based social enterprises by providing match development funds, business advice and training.
· Developing the Rapid Parish Development Programme outside the Diocese of Portsmouth by selling it to other dioceses.
Canon Nick Ralph,
Head of Mission and Society and Social Responsibility Adviser