Following a recent review, the work of Transforming Communities Together has been integrated into the Diocese of Lichfield. The newly named Strengthening Communities team brings all its experience to the diocesan team working to resource parishes, building on the ‘Shaping for Mission’ process. It’s our mission to support your church as you live out your mission to respond to human need by loving service and to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation. These are the third and fourth Marks of Mission, goals set by the worldwide Anglican church.
Half of our small team is dedicated to enabling all who live with some kind of physical or mental impairment to fully live in their communities and help others to understand how to offer support. One of those colleagues is specifically dedicated to families that live with dementia.
One way that we can work with you, is through the Places of Welcome network. Places of Welcome is a growing, national network of ‘drop in’ hospitality run predominantly by volunteers who want to make sure that everyone in their area has a place to go to see a friendly face, enjoy a free cup of tea and a good conversation, if and when they need it.
Together with my colleague, Lesley Bovington we support over 175 Places of Welcome teams throughout Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, the Black Country and northern Shropshire. Two thirds are faith-based, with others being hosted in community centres, libraries and even community gardens. Most recently Stoke City football club has opened one at their stadium.
Our guests talk about the difference Places of Welcome make to their lives. Chris, a regular visitor to Woodside Internet Centre Place of Welcome, said:
"Being bipolar in the past I’ve often found it easy to isolate myself. In an attempt to tackle this going forward I received a referral to Woodside community centre and started engaging with the staff and projects there. This led me to participating in the internet café at Woodside church and eventually assisting with the upkeep of the IT equipment and networking as a way to give back to a group that was both open and accepting when I first arrived. I have also found that having a regular commitment that involves helping others is also a good motivational tool as part of my own mental health regime."
Places of Welcome connect with and strengthen their local communities in many ways, including:
- Providing safe, accessible, friendly spaces where the vulnerable and socially isolated can go, without the pressure of registration processes, commitment, or cost.
- Providing supportive, gentle, social space for the cared-for and their carers.
- Signposting those in need to other services and acting as information hubs.
- Connecting with local social prescribers, community mental health teams, PCSOs, social services, local councillors, social housing providers, etc.
- Encouraging their guests, at their own pace, to take part, for example by joining in with activities, by helping, by sharing their talents and knowledge.
- Providing a place to engage and empower all, where local voices can be heard and where support services and solutions can be better shaped, as a result.
- Churches supporting one another, across the Places of Welcome networks.
Carrie Blount is the Strengthening Communities Enabler, and Places of Welcome Facilitator role for the Black Country area - email, 07377 918101 and website.
The team is also on social media at Facebook,Twitter/X and Instagram
There is also a national website for Places of Welcome.