At the beginning of this year I began a new role of Dean of Estates Ministry, with a brief to support and encourage the church’s work on local authority estates throughout the Diocese of Southwark.
Southwark Diocese has the second highest number of estates parishes in the country. But what is an ‘estates parish’?
In 2019 the General Synod commended the vision of the national Estates Evangelism Task Group ‘to see a serving, loving and worshipping Christian community on every significant social housing estate in the country.’
An estates parish was defined as one with more than 500 units of social housing.
On that basis the Diocese of Southwark has 180 estates parishes. 21 of our parishes have more than 50% of socially rented households and 108 have 25% or more socially rented households.
As part of our diocesan response to the national estates challenge we have adopted the goal of twenty-five new ‘loving, worshipping Christian communities’ on estates in the Diocese. This goal was itself inspired by the Twenty-Five Churches fund of the inter-war years through which twenty-five new churches were built in areas of new housing in the Diocese.
Today we may not be thinking so much of new buildings as new Christian communities and, alongside that, the training and equipping of estates lay pioneers, estates people ministering to estates people.
Getting out into the estate parishes is a key part of my new job. My first visit was to St Michael and All Angels, Camberwell where the Morning Prayer reading for the day was strangely apposite: ‘Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong’ (1 Corinthians 1.26-27)
Estates ministry can be challenging and demanding, but already I am excited to see how God’s love and grace is being shared with the thousands of people who live on the estates of our diocese, by our Southwark churches.
In the next few months I will be sharing stories from estates ministry right across the Diocese. Come back to this blog to hear more in due course.