James Henderson - TCT Development Worker 

My job as a Development Worker, working in partnership with Lichfield Diocese in the Black Country and Staffordshire is a privilege and an honour. It takes me to some amazing places and I meet some wonderful people who are totally committed to helping everyone in their community to thrive and flourish.

But every now and again life gets a bit surreal and you just have to pinch yourself! Last month was one of those! Thanks to an invitation from Faith Action, I was able to appear before the All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society.

The session was chaired on this occasion by Gary Streeter MP[1] and I was also able to meet the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP[2]. I was there to be able to share with the gathered MP’s and Lords, some of the great work that the 250 + Places of Welcome venues are doing in England and Wales.

Places of Welcome was developed by my Together Network colleagues in Birmingham (Thrive Together Birmingham). It was developed during Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Inquiry ‘Giving Hope Changing Lives’ in 2012. The Places of Welcome network has now grown beyond Birmingham, into the Black Country and across the country.

It helps to create a network of safe places where people can connect, belong and contribute.

Many churches are involved, supported by a number of my Together Network colleagues, but we also have libraries, community centres and other faith groups such as mosques and temples. This representation of other faith groups is growing, thanks to the support of our Near Neighbours teams. They have also provided support for the new website and enabled Together Network Development Workers and Near Neighbours Coordinators to come together to share good practice. An example of this is places like The Wirrall, Tamworth and Lichfield, where thanks to Together Network workers on the ground, the mainly volunteer Venue Coordinators are able to meet up, support one another and share ideas. It’s great to hear some of the stories about how a great welcome and hospitality is changing lives!

 

Find out more about Places of Welcome at www.placesofwelcome.org.uk – could your church or group set one up?

[1] Normally Vice Chair

[2] http://www.faithandsociety.org/officers/