Collaboration on the Coast
Adur Churches Forum is a vehicle for promoting the social action which we believe springs from the Gospel message which we proclaim. It is different from Churches Together forums, though both are complementary, and Christian Social Action is of course underpinned by our faith and prayer and liturgy.
Adur is a 'place apart' in West Sussex, an area of tightly built, mainly older housing, with a traditional port, small airport, and economy relying more on light industry, commerce and small business. It houses 60,000 people (the smallest District Council in England), and is a narrow, strung-out district, sandwiched between sea and South Downs, traversed by two major roads and the coastal railway line. South Downs, busy A roads, railway and English Channel all act as barriers to human interaction, and Adur doesn't have a "town centre" or focal point.
The Forum came about as a result of John Kelly, Social Cohesion Officer of Adur District Council, coming to talk to Shoreham Churches Together about our possible contacts with ethnic minority groups. We agreed that it would be useful to continue to meet for our mutual benefit and to promote social action of the churches; this was seen as the council knowing more about what churches are doing, and we, churches being able to develop our social welfare activity with the support of the council when that is appropriate.
Development of the group
A small group started meeting with John who suggested that as he worked over Adur District area, we might work to embrace all the churches in the area. We invited 23 churches to an open event, to which officers of the council were also invited. This was in July 2010, Initially 9 churches attended but others have now joined and we continue to try to engage more.
It was generally agreed that this had been a useful event and of mutual benefit to churches and council; we all learnt more about each other and there was an exchange of information and contacts. It was agreed that we should continue with this work.
In due course it was recognised that we would need to be officially constituted and formally elect a small committee.
Our constitution states that
‘The aim of Adur Churches Forum shall be to encourage Christian witness, particularly through social action in Adur by:
- Providing a forum to discuss matters of mutual interest.
- Establish links with voluntary and statutory agencies with similar interests and concerns.
- Support the development and delivery of community projects by churches, individually or in partnership’.
We have continued to meet on a regular basis, now bi-monthly. We have continued an annual gathering, which will now include the AGM.
The second annual event addressed ‘The Big Society’ with talks from a local councillor and a trustee of our local CVS, Adur Voluntary Action (AVA). Workshop groups looked at the ‘Role of the Church in The Big Society’, and the ‘Role of the Church in the Voluntary Sector’.
In 2012 we heard about 4 projects in which churches were engaged; these were:
- a money advice service offered by the Baptist Church in Shoreham;
- the Village Action Shop in Lancing managed by AVA;
- a Passion for Shoreham, a drama of the life of Christ presented in the streets of Shoreham, to mark the centenary of The Church Of the Good Shepherd, and in which all other churches were involved;
- a proposal to develop a Food Bank, led by The Church of Christ The King, (CCK), and also under the auspices of CCK, a project working with the homeless, and offering training and rehabilitation.
Our conference in 2013 focused on Poverty. The purpose was to:
- find out about the changes in the benefits system;
- learn about the implications locally and nationally; and
- see how the churches in Adur might respond.
As well as a national speaker – Alison Gelder, Chief Executive of Housing Justice – we had the area manager of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Housing Strategy and Enabling Manager from Adur and Worthing Council and speakers from two local projects, Shoreham Food Bank and Friends First. (A report is available.) The conference helped towards consideration of further action
Launch of Shoreham Food Bank attended by local MP, Tim Loughton
Some of the ongoing actions now
- Shoreham Food Bank is now up and running. While the Church of Christ the King is the lead church, the support and involvement of other churches in Adur has been an important contribution.
- An Information Leaflet with information for those homeless or out of work has been printed and distributed.
- A Legal surgery is beingprovided at Southwick Christian Community Church (SCCC), by a solicitor who is a member of SCCC and is being seconded by her firm to provide the service.
- IT training has started also at SCCC, provided by Adur Voluntary Action.
- Debt Counselling This service has developed from the money advice service offered by Shoreham Baptist Church. It is under the umbrella of Christians Against Poverty, which gives them the backing and support of a national organisation.
A volunteer at the Shoreham Food Bank
- Better Place Group The Forum is represented on the Better Place Group, which is a sub group of WAVES strategic partnership, the Local Strategy Planning body for Adur and Worthing. We think it important that we as churches have a presence and voice in forums such as the Strategic Planning body.
- Older people From the experience of one of our members we thought that there are a number of old people who are on their own, and that the churches might be able to offer a service. Rather than reinvent the wheel we sought to see how we might be able to work with others and contribute to an already active provision. A representative of Age UK came to talk to us about their home visiting service for older people; a brief description of the work has been circulated to churches for publication. We will need to follow up this initiative.
- Directory of our activities A member produced a directory of all the activities of member churches. This is useful in giving an overview of activities, and the realisation of just how much is happening. The council also acknowledged the benefit of having a fuller picture of provision in the district.
- Adur Voluntary Action (AVA) website This website has a database of organisations in the area and includes a heading for Faith groups in which the Adur Churches Forum is included.
- Funding We have received a Community Grant from Adur District Council
- Park Pastors The police have asked us to consider setting up a Park Pastors project in Adur; Matt Davis of Christ the King Church will be meeting with a local Police Community Support officer to take this forward; they will also talk to Electric Storm in Lancing.
Links to other organisations
Adur Voluntary Action has supported the development of Adur Churches Forum and is represented at meetings.
Adur Churches Forum is represented at
- Adur Community Network A forum for the voluntary and Community Sectorhosted by AVA
- Adur Homelessness Forum hosted by Adur District Council
- Better Place Group a sub group of WAVES Local Strategic Planning Group