Southdown Whiteway Church and Community Partnership
Based at the Southdown Methodist Church Centre Bath
The tourist city of Bath does not readily spring to mind as a place where you would find poverty and deprivation...yet in the southwest of the city some estates have considerable problems. For more than 10 years the Methodist churches in Bath have doggedly refused to retreat from this area and despite the lack of a regular worshipping congregation, have maintained a caring and supportive Christian presence.
The Partnership supports a pastoral church worker and is funded by the generous giving of many members and friends in Bath and beyond, grants from local businesses and trusts, as well as the Methodist Church at national and local levels. The work is based at the Methodist Church Centre in Southdown, where there are many regular weekly activities, but for Church Worker Jane, much of her time is spent working with the local community and supporting them in a variety of ways.
Over time, Jane has built up a considerable degree of trust amongst the local people, who often turn to the church to share their problems and concerns. Individuals and groups are supported, sometimes financially, and lives are transformed through their contact with the church. Here are just one or two examples:
One day, Jane was in the Church Centre when a young man came in to the Nearly New Shop; he was obviously distressed and asked if we had a pram; he didn’t have any money but, for us, that wasn’t a problem. As she chatted to him he began to relax and unfold his life story. His family unit was dysfunctional; his baby, born with serious medical problems, had been in hospital since birth. The baby’s mother had no access and he had restricted access, but with a hope that in the future he might be able to have the baby back if he got his life on track. The hospital had said he could take the baby out in the grounds but he needed a pram; he’d been sent to us. Jane found a pram and some baby clothes. As they talked Jane asked if she might light a candle for the baby on Thursday when we set up a quiet room. He was pleased with the idea and they chatted some more and he left, with tears rolling down his face. Some eighteen months later, the young man came back, his head held high, clean shaven, looking well and with a grin he said, “I’ve come back for a pushchair; but this time I’ll pay because I’m getting my life together. My little lad is much better, I have custody with a little support and we are off to Cornwall to set up home with my mother and start afresh. Thanks for your prayers, your love and care. Please continue to pray for us.”
The Church Centre activities have given people from the area, many with young families, the opportunity to share their concerns and problems. Like the lady, who, with her son and pregnant girlfriend came in for some help with setting up home for the young couple in a council house. Before long the lady shared the real problems they were facing, with the young couple both on drugs. Jane listened without recrimination as they shared more of their story. When the baby was only six weeks old, the girlfriend disappeared. Over those next few years we offered support to the grandparents and son. The grandparents brought up the child in those early years, while the son tried to get his life back together. Throughout this time the family would often pop in for a chat. Grandma brought the child to our toddler group and made friends with other families.
The Partnership also supports the residents of Blagdon Park, the local sheltered housing complex. Jane recalls that on one Sunday she arrived to take the monthly Sunday Service to find the residents very distressed. One of the residents had died in hospital and because no family were forthcoming, they feared she wouldn’t have a proper funeral. Jane made all the arrangements and took the service herself at the Church Centre, with refreshments afterwards at Blagdon Park.
These are just a few of the many ways in which peoples’ lives are touched by the love of Christ, through the work of this missionary outreach in Bath.