This year I am spending time living and working alongside the Church of England in Twerton, Bath. I am gaining experience in social work, Christian ministry and theological studies. At 2.5 months in, there is a lot to learn...
What is Twerton like?
Twerton is found in the west of the city of Bath and has a population of almost 6,000. When I walk from home into Twerton I walk through housing estates, the colours in keeping with the beige-y creamness of the rest of Bath, and I look out to the gorgeous green fields in the distance. I hear trains crossing the railway bridge which boundaries Twerton from Lower Weston. As I get onto the highstreet (where a lot seems to happen!) there are usually people around. I often pass people who have visible disabilities. The Government Area Profile in 2011 stated that just over 20% of the population experienced a limiting long-term illness, the highest proportion in Bath and above the national average. There are a few people I pass who sit on a bench opposite the church offices, often men, and who I'm told are often waiting for a drug drop-off.
A recent report states that over a third of local children live in poverty, making Twerton the poorest ward in Bath. At a wider perspective, Twerton falls into the 10% most deprived areas of England. Looking at the Government Area Profile from 2011, the number of people who were unemployed was above the national average, and 31.73% of people (16 years and over) had no qualifications, the highest percentage in Bath and way above the national average of 17.92%. In day-to-day life these statistics play out as many families accessing free school meals, poor mental health gripping many members of the population, low-level educational attainment and crime, among other realities.
I share with others on the church staff team a sense of refreshment needed for Twerton. Many of us have used language around water, I saw an image in my mind's eye of a river flowing down through Twerton, the community being filled with life. Others have talked about colour and a rekindling and redirecting of the energy and quirkiness which Twerton holds so much of. God is providing hope and reshaping the way we can sometimes see the area through these images and words He seems to 'download' to us.
What is happening? What are my responsibilities?
I work sort of part-time across MANY different areas of church life. It has been interesting so far to get a picture of what the church is doing in the community, and to take a bit of time to dream about what new things could spring to life.
Church family -staff meetings, church meetings, life group
Church responsibilities -worship team, children's work, youth work, student work
Local community -waitressing at 'Rose Cottage' community cafe
School work -helping the chaplain at local junior school with after-school club and lunchtime mentoring, as well as future 'accompanying project' meeting weekly 1-1 with a year 6 student transitioning into year 7
Practical Theology course -over in Bristol once a week at Mullers House, completing regular assignments and helping to lead morning worship
There are two other interns here with me: Beth and Scott. Where I focus a bit more on student work, Beth focuses on youth and children's work, and Scott focuses on 'The Rec House'; an arts centre used by local creatives to record and perform. Spot us being introduced at church at the beginning of this podcast.
Where am I living?
I am living with the family of the curate of St Michael's. Joel, Lella and their two young children Heidi (4) and Austin (2) have so kindly welcomed me into their home for this time I am with the church. It is fun to learn to live with new people, particularly with another family unit. It is a very special home which sees people visiting fairly regularly. It is a lovely haven for me to rest and enjoy family life. It is so much fun playing with the kiddies, reading stories and spinning them around on the lazy-susan from the kitchen (LOL). It is a privilege to be part of this family's routine, welcomed into their home life, and I enjoy cooking, eating and sharing what I am learning and going through in life with them.
What is God teaching me/speaking to me about? If you pray, what can you pray for?
- Working in the midst of societal pressures and struggles and human needs is TOUGH! Working with so many people who have challenges with their mental health is really tricky
- It is so important to look after and keep ourselves healthy when we are giving so much of ourselves to others
- Divides: how does St Michaels' bridge the divides we have in society, even in the church?!
- The future is exciting!!! But I'm here now so I want to be fully present.
- Keeping up with friends outside of this little world can be a challenge, life in Twerton COULD take ALL of my energy if I let it
- How do we live out this wisdom of God which sends ripples into the powers of darkness?!