Church at the economic margins

31 August 2022

“My sense is that the time is now for our Church to focus on the millions in our nations who are experiencing poverty.”

Deacon Eunice Attwood, Church at the Margins Officer for the Methodist Church

Methodists are being encouraged to join together and become communities where people experiencing economic hardship are welcomed, affirmed, and valued.

A vision from the Methodist Church for church at the economic margins has been developed within the God for All strategy, agreed by the 2019 Methodist conference, and supported by the Evangelism and Growth team

In the face of the cost of living crisis such communities are needed more than ever says Deacon Eunice Attwood who leads on the work and who has over twenty years’ experience of ministry amongst marginalised and vulnerable communities:

 “Jesus was very clear that to abandon people experiencing poverty, is to abandon the gospel. The cost-of-living crisis will impact everyone, but not everyone will experience poverty.

“Having spent the last few months travelling the country, what I am hearing is a growing concern about fuel costs where people are having to make choices between heating or cooking, soaring numbers of people with mental ill health, fears of what the future may bring, and a plea for the Church to see hidden pockets of poverty in its communities.”

The vision for church at the economic margins is to nurture new Christian communities amongst people who are economically marginalised.

“Church at the Margins is not a new initiative, it is at the heart of the gospel, and Christian discipleship. But my sense is that the time is now for our Church to focus on the millions in our nations that are experiencing poverty”, says Deacon Eunice.

Selby Street Mission is located in one of the UK’s most deprived areas and according to Andy who has been attending several times a week for 13 years, “is the heart of our community.” The Mission provides friendship, meals, support for people living with addiction, food and clothes banks as well as worship and bible study classes. The Minister, the Revd Andrew Stead says, “People are drawn to this place because they want to serve church at the margins. We have got to stay in these areas because God loves them.”

Hayley, a member of the Selby Street Mission explains why she keep coming to the Mission, “It’s the people and it’s the prayers and it’s the presence of other people accepting you for who you are.”

How can we create spaces for people to be vulnerable about their circumstances? For Eunice it is about “Acknowledging the gifts of people experiencing poverty, believing that poverty contradicts the will of God and celebrating becoming a community where friendship is nurtured, and the love of God is experienced.”

Freedom Project in Derbyshire was set up in 2008 to support people who are struggling with poverty in Bolsover. Since then the project has grown to cover the North East Midlands and Yorkshire with 14 support centres offering debt counselling, skills for getting back into the work place and the chance to encounter faith. Speaking ahead of a recent family fun day in the town hosted by the Project, Mark North, CEO, said: “These kind of places give people the opportunity to connect but also helps them to build confidence and worth and hopefully is an opportunity for them to reflect on who Jesus is.”

The Church is resourcing Christians to develop this work including courses on how to begin a church at the margins, community organising and a webinar on offering a warm space this winter for people unable to afford heating in their homes.

Additional resources available for churches

  • Beginning a Church at the Margins: A three session interactive online course

This course offers a space to think about connecting and becoming a community of new Christians amongst and led by people experiencing poverty.

It is for people who are passionate about their community with very little or no experience of this kind of work. Whilst you can attend alone ideally, we would like you to join as a team (you plus one other person from your church or circuit) to share in conversation together (if you are an experienced pioneer drop us an email for more information).

The course is hosted by Deacon Eunice Attwood, Church at the Margins Officer and Kerry Scarlett, Regional Learning and Development Officer.

Register here.

  • Offer a warm space this winter webinar

In this webinar, you'll find out how your church could create a warm space this winter, and why they're needed now more than ever.

The cost of living crisis is plunging more and more people into poverty. With utility bills rising astronomically, some people will have no choice but to be cold this winter. In this short webinar, you'll find out how your church might go about offering a Warm Space: a place for people to come and get warm, have a free hot drink and maybe eat a hot meal or charge their phone. You'll find out how Warm Spaces has really taken off in Gateshead, and how your church could join in.

This webinar is hosted by Eunice and Emma Nash from the Evangelism and Growth team, Deacon Tracey Hume from the Newcastle Methodist District and Paul Morrison from the Joint Public Issues Team.

Register here.

  • An introductory course to the core practices of community organising

Community organising is a way of working together to enable positive change. The course is an excellent way begin to build and nurture becoming a community. Courses are at Cliff College beginning this autumn and spring and autumn of 2023.

Find out more here.