Faiths Working Together

Paul Southgate: Faiths Working Together

Collaborating in the North East to address the social issues of our time

Paul Southgate here highlights work by the Churches’ Regional Commission (CRC) in the North East whose main objective is to promote social action by churches and, increasingly, faiths working together.  

Over recent years CRC has continued to develop and strengthen its links with the public and voluntary sectors in the region and sought to help them engage more effectively with churches and faith communities. CRC successfully brings other faiths together with churches for social action. Our region faces awesome challenges. The CRC’s developing intelligence base shows the immense contribution made by the churches to the social, economic and cultural life of the region and beyond.

CRC reports and publications illustrate that much of this happens ‘beneath the radar’. The work of CRC builds platforms for churches and faith groups together to express their voice on matters of mutual concern. This snapshot of CRC activity below shows how the CRC understands and fulfils its ecumenical ‘mission’ in the north east. Further details can be found on CRC's website which contains reports of these highlighted activities, and several projects which have been showcased in national and international publications.

 

MISSIONS AND MILESTONES 2005 – 2012

 

Gather Intelligence 

Undertaking the most comprehensive & accessible survey of faith groups, a web-based database to inform ecumenical strategy & research. This confirms and illustrates the impressive contribution of churches and faith groups to enhancing networks and social capital in the region.  CRC funded research into pastoral needs of north east immigrants. First systematic study of activities offered by faith groups to young people to involve them in wider community. Published research on the role of faith representatives on Local Strategic Partnerships. 

Engage with the marginalised 

Organised events exploring housing regeneration & homelessness affecting Roma Gypsies & Travellers, returning offenders, affordable housing; organised ‘Starter Packs’ for new tenants. Vulnerable young homeless people. Founded Inter Faith Forum on the Resettlement of Offenders holding 5 conferences bringing together prisons & faith groups. Lead in negotiating with UK Border Agency for better reporting conditions for asylum seekers. Campaigned for asylum seekers’ right to work.

Involve faith in public life 

Design & deliver “Engaging with Faith” learning programme to help faith communities & public bodies engage more effectively with each other.

Organise “Ethics Breakfast” seminars with local authority & faith groups addressing topical issues: riots, public morality, young people. ‘Question Time’ event for European Parliamentary candidates. Chaired Government Office Cohesion & Faiths Group. Published reports in partnership with local authorities ‘Faith in Sustainable Communities’. Consultancy role on Equalities legislation.

Minister to workers and economy

Leads industrial mission in the North East but supports chaplains of all sectors. Chairs Northumbrian Industrial Mission with 46 chaplains. Serves & supports Tees Valley Ministry. Preach at Workers Memorial Day. Chair Fair Trade seminar. Research Living Wage in partnership with Church Action on Poverty.

Focus on mission and community development

Key role in developing ‘Faith in Communities’ project helping churches in most deprived areas to respond to needs of local communities. Workshops on different models of community development used by churches.  Contributed to Open Learning programme for churches.

Make alliances

Support wider voluntary sector by serving on VONNE Board. Big Society conferences, Community Organising workshops to unpack new Government’s key ideas. Co-founded NE Equalities Coalition. NE Regional Faiths Network, Co Durham Faiths Network, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility. Churches’ Regional Network. UK Inter Faith Network. DepaulUK regional committee. Newcastle Conflict Resolution Network....

Build resilient communities

Action Research project in Walker and Jarrow focusing what helps make communities stronger or weaker. Resilience measure produced in partnership with local organisations and community groups.  Proposals drafted relating to enhancing economic and social development in the future to ensure resilience and sustainability.  Presentations at regional and international events and conferences.

Nurture compassionate communities

Faith advisor on Strategic Health Authority Regional Advisory Group. Organise public regional conference on ‘What is a good death?’ Deliver end-of-life care conference in Ukraine. Run workshops on how churches contribute to nurturing ‘compassionate communities’. Design ‘Faith in Sustainable Communities’ programme with Durham County Council on Health & Wellbeing.

Encourage active citizens: local and global exchanges

Bringing together faith groups from Tyneside & Ukraine to share experience of faith-based social action. Organised and delivered series of workshops in the North East involving churches and faith groups. CRC taking Lead role in North East Delegation visiting Ukraine.

Work together: ecumenically and interfaith

Jointly organised regional ecumenical events: Anti-Slavery, Environment, Big Society, Churches & Communities. Contributed to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland ‘Good Society’ research focusing on ‘What is a Good Society’ - published by CTBI. Developed & led regional, sub-regional & local multi faith networks, helping faith sector to play its full part in the region. Secured funding to support numerous multi faith projects.

 

© Paul Southgate

 

Paul Southgate is the Director of  Vincentians in Partnership, based at the Depaul UK Youth Resource Centre in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear. Vincentians in Partnership is an umbrella organisation set up to foster networking and collaboration among organisations influenced by the spirit of St Vincent de Paul. The spirit of St Vincent de Paul is about supporting vulnerable young people through practical means in a practical and non-judgmental way. The ’Vincentian’ way has its focus on responding to need through action and innovation. Paul was CEO of the Churches’ Regional Commission in the North East between 2005 and 2012. 

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