I will never forget the moment that I knew I wanted to become a Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) with the United Reformed Church. Community work has always been a big part of my life. In the village where I used to live, teach and worship, I organised Messy Church sessions, set up Guiding groups, was involved with several different committees and planned a local Pantomime. When my fiancé and I had to move to a new area because of circumstances outside of our control I was genuinely gutted. I really didn’t want to leave! The groups I set up were going well; there was a team of us working together and the enthusiasm from others to get involved and make a difference was just wonderful. I was worried about what would happen to the projects that I had set up – would they have everything they needed to thrive without me there? But I needn’t have worried. They’re still going strong even now and are growing and developing, with new people involved and others joining in. People in the village are working together to create something wonderful. To know that I helped start that is a feeling like no other.
‘Community development’ is a process where people in a community come together to act on what’s important to them and find solutions to common problems, and we are seeing this happen more and more in the world today. As I write this blog, students in 30 towns and cities across the UK are protesting the Government’s inaction on climate change. People are standing up for the right to freedom, justice and peace. Community development is fundamentally based on these values, and values such as autonomy – people and communities having the right to make their own choices and decisions; empowerment – people being able to control and use their own resources and means to influence; collective action – coming together in groups or organisations to strengthens peoples’ voices; working and learning together – collaboration and sharing experiences with others.
In a country which is becoming increasingly divided on issues like Brexit, and with food bank use in the UK reaching the highest rate on record, community development is more essential than ever. We need to create a sense of togetherness in our local communities where we work to resolve issues that everyone cares about and change the world for the better. As a CRCW I will be accepting and fulfilling a call from God to serve in local communities across the URC in the United Kingdom. Our task is to enable the local congregation or a designated project to engage with community development in the neighbourhood, to reflect on and advance that work and to develop community work goals and processes within its own life – its order, outreach, worship, spirituality, theology and mission.
I can see God at work in these communities already. He uses passionate people who love the people around them, and when He does this something amazing happens. People feel connected, and lives are changed. I feel very privileged to be able to do God’s work in the world in this way, and I can’t wait to see what comes next, both in my studies and my future career. I look forward to working with communities and people that I haven’t even met yet and know that I will have God, His support and love behind me.
Written by Fliss Tunnard. Fliss is currently a student at Luther King House, Manchester and is training to be a Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) with the United Reformed Church.