This time last year, churches were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions. Even now, many are unsure of when they will be allowed to re-open, what limitations are likely to be in place when they do, and how society will have changed.
With the support of Benefact Trust funding, Sandwell Churches Link is launching a three year programme working with approximately 60 churches across Sandwell, helping them develop their vision and rediscover their place as beacons of hope, connectivity and mutual benefit in their local communities.
The ‘Opening New Doors’ project will use an ‘Asset Based’ approach to community development and will help churches to conduct a ‘Talent Search’ and an ‘Asset Appraisal’ of their community context; involving local people, organisations, and building partnerships. Sandwell Churches Link will create Learning Communities to facilitate peer learning and mentoring across churches. Opening New Doors will take a tailored approach to each individual church and community context, building on existing work from Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and ‘Crossing the Threshold’, developed by the Diocese of Hereford.
Pastor Stephen Bentham from Smethwick Baptist Church said: “Our church has a history of working with other local organisations and over the years we have begun to adapt our church building to accommodate a wider range of users. We recognise the need for the vision and strategy for this and would be very keen to see our experience broadened and used to strengthen and benefit churches across Sandwell and further afield.”
Rev. Allen Bower, former Vicar at St Matthew’s, Tipton, said: “I hope ‘Opening New Doors’ could assist us with the reordering of the church and help St Matthew’s church fulfil its vision as a place of worship and a key resource to many in the wider community.”
Paul Playford, Grants Officer for Benefact Trust, said: “Delighted that our funding can support the ‘Opening New Doors’ project, which will help churches to find new ways to connect with their communities and bring people together. This is more important than even as we emerge from lockdown, start to re-engage, and look to a positive future.”
Further down the line, Sandwell Churches Link hopes to build a range of resources to support churches across the UK to ‘open their doors’ to new opportunities, and welcomes enquiries from any churches who feel they might benefit from the charity’s approaches and toolkits. However, initially the project will look to support churches in Sandwell, and the charity is inviting Sandwell churches of all denominations to get in touch if they would like support to re-open their doors in a new way.