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01 June 2013

Loving the local estate

Loving the local estate

There was a buzz across Islington this week as Soul in the City (29 May - 2 June) began, Christians working together in different parts of the London borough. The community festival is a partnership between local churches, organisations and tenant associations and was a myriad of practical projects, fun days, workshops, prayer and meeting neighbours.

A stone's throw from the Alliance building is the Bemerton Estate where six nearby churches, the Tenant Management Organisation, Age UK and Bemerton Engage were working together to host Soul in the City Bemerton.

Willing volunteers from the six churches, and evena team from Alabama, sacrificed their time to give something back to the local estate and share the gospel through practical action, as well as words.

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The morning projects involved gardening and decoration work at the flats of people who otherwise potentially wouldn’t have help or visitors.

Mrs Payne was one such lady: “I love my garden. I used to spend my days tending it. Now, I’m on oxygen because of illness and can’t even get down the steps. I’m so grateful, these people helped me last year and the Church are the only ones who will do it.” 

Stephen White, part of a team completely re-decorating a living room in a flat, explained why he volunteers with Soul in the City Bemerton: “I like DIY and want to be involved in my local area. The lady who lives in this flat has no family and not many people care for her. I am pleased we can help her have a better living environment – it needs it. Later at the tea dance I will dance with some 87 yr old lady I expect.“ 

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The tea dance for the over- 50s saw a dance floor filled with couples of the older generation dancing to live jazz and waltz music, the rest enjoying fine tea and cakes. 

Jane Chambers, choices and lifestyle manager for Age UK, said: “It is really great to work with local churches for Soul in the City - a wonderful event. I have already had some of the people here ask when the next tea dance is. There’s a group here that already have their own little dance group.” Jane spoke of the services of Age UK and how they work with other local organisations to support the elderly across the borough and indicated gratitude for the assistance and partnerships that help the older residents on the estate.  

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On Bingfield Park each day there was a creative prayer tent, gazebos and plenty of people sat around enjoying the free cakes. Young lads played football and the XLP bus had a steady stream of children and youth going in and out.

Sara Kewly Hyde has lived on the estate for five years. “This is a brilliant opportunity to meet my neighbours, get out the house and show people some love whether that is practically or by praying for them," she said. "It’s a great challenge for us to think, as people of God, how we can have a sustained involvement in the community in which we live and worship. For me that has involved moving on to the estate but that isn’t going to be everyone’s calling. It is important we do stuff with people not just to and for them."

Rachel Kitchen, one of the organisers of Soul in the City Bemerton, explained: “Church members seeing and being involved with something on our doorstep can often facilitate more regular involvement – we grow in discipleship and local relationships develop. We hope this weekend will act as a springboard. It is an amazing privilege to work with so many other churches and organisations.

“These are simple ways to bring a bit of difference, hope and encouragement to the residents. This is an amazing estate with loads going on but we recognise that God has even more for this place and to contribute to that is an honour.”

sitc2The other areas of Islington also holding a Soul in the City mission include Upper Street, led by St Marys Islington; and Andover estate near Finsbury Park, run by Tollington churches.

Over the weekend there are more events at each Soul in the City site - arts and crafts, football tournaments, youth talent shows, rap writing workshops, health advice, fun days, free BBQs, cakes and more prayer.

Soul in the City Bemerton video - Churches involved on Bemerton were: KXC, Church at the Corner, St Andrews, All Saints, Islington, Barnsbury Parish, Kings Cross Baptist.