Citizens UK – in Somerset
Citizens UK is an organisation committed to working with local people, to hear their concerns about their community and take action to put them right. It describes itself as the “Home of Community Organising in the United Kingdom” and has been behind many successful campaigns, including being the driving force behind the introduction of the Real Living Wage (which the Methodist Church and many other employers have now adopted). It is concerned with real world issues of how society works but it is strictly non-party political.
Citizens UK has a number of branches – called Chapters – in London, Wales and many major cities across the country. And now the movement has come to the South West with the establishment of a local chapter “Citizens Somerset” which was formally launched at a Founding Assembly in Taunton in March 2019. It is the first to be set up in a mainly rural area.
The Methodist Circuit of Taunton Deane and South Sedgemoor has formally joined Citizens Somerset as a Founding Member Organisation, joining the Diocese of Bath & Wells, the United Reformed Church in Taunton and the Quakers, together with non-faith organisations like local schools and colleges and a number of committed individuals. The Circuit has taken the view that the goals of Citizens UK are very much in line with the Mission of the Methodist Church, to tackle issues of social justice and unfairness in our society and assist anybody who is affected by them.
It is early days for Citizens Somerset but the Circuit is looking forward to working with others to address issues which concern our membership. For a link to the Citizens Somerset website and to keep up to date with campaigns on the areas chosen as initial priorities, please click on the link below
Citizens Somerset – an update and an opportunity
Members across our churches will know that the Circuit joined Citizens Somerset, as a fee-paying Member, when it was launched last year, along with several other churches, a number of local schools, the YMCA and a group of interested individuals. As a Circuit, we are well represented on the Leadership Team through Deborah Kirk, Barbara Fierek and John Haines.
Progress has been good and in the summer at an Accountability Assembly we obtained commitments from the Leader of both Somerset County Council and Somerset West and Taunton District Council to a number of our campaigning goals. These included some really important issues relating to accommodating homeless people, and to improving the wages and employment conditions of Carers. The details of what had been achieved were written up in the August Circuit Link.
One of the key ideas behind the Circuit joining Citizens was to ensure that our priorities for Justice and Social Fairness within our community are considered when Citizens Somerset identifying priorities as a whole. Through Citizens we have a great opportunity to respond to the Christian emphasis on fullness of life for all. Each year we write our priorities into our Annual Membership Plan which is periodically brought to the Circuit Meeting.
It is therefore appropriate to regularly review what those priorities are, and check that they continue to reflect what our members – across all our churches - think is important. Commitments to outreach and local projects will already form part of churches’ Mission Statements. However, as we know many of these have been halted during the pandemic, or new ways have to found to re-assess and adapt our Mission in the Community.
With all that in mind a very timely opportunity has been offered to us as Methodists to do just this.
At national level Citizens UK has provided funding for Citizens Somerset to participate in a project called PATH - which stands for “Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope”, which is particularly relevant as we all think about the future after Covid. PATH is a well-researched planning tool which can be used around an individual or an organisation to help identify long term goals and the steps needed along the way to achieve them. Expert facilitation is available to undertake a small numbers of PATH analyses under the agreement with Citizens UK.
One session will be used by the Citizens Somerset Leadership Team for the Alliance as a whole but another session is available to a Member Organisation, and the Leadership Team have proposed that this session should be offered to our Circuit.
This is a generous offer and one which the Circuit representatives on Citizens Somerset are keen to take up. So, what does it mean in practice?
It will involve 1 Zoom session of about 1½ - 2 hours, thinking about where we believe God is leading us, particularly in our Mission to our Communities, and the Partnerships we may want to make for the future. The results will be written up and presented back to us to use for future planning in the Circuit if we wish.
There is no cost to the Circuit - all we need is some people with an interest in social justice to join the session and contribute their ideas. The date has not yet been set but it is likely to be before Christmas.
If you are interested in taking part or just want to know some more about it, please contact Deborah Kirk or John Haines.
Co-chair Citizens Somerset