. UPDATED 12TH JUNE 2017
FEEDBACK ON FIRST NCLF ROADSHOW IN BRISTOL.
Blog by NCLF SteerCo Member Dionne Gravesande
IThe NCLF roadshow launched in the South West of England on May 6th. We gathered at the Church of God of Prophecy in Bristol, and were warmly? greeted by the meeting’s hosts Pastors Ray Veira and Bernard Morris. Over 250 people was represented through the five churches in attendance, with representation from CoGoP, RCCG and the local Baptist congregation.
The meeting was framed in the context of a local and national conversation against the backdrop of the snap General Election called for June 8th. NCLF wanted to create a platform to highlight key issues in the community, to better understand the social, political, economic and spiritual challenges, and explore the role of the Church in responding to Brexit, in particular immigration.
NCLF chair Pastor Ade Omooba thanked the hosts for making the space available for this important discussion. Ade spoke to the mission of NCLF making the case for how and why faith principles and convictions affect the churches view of politics and public policy. In the political realm faith matters because it informs our worldview and our sense of right and wrong, and therefore the outworkings affect BME communities in the UK towns and cities. It is this agenda that NCLF is taking forward by engaging church leaders and congregations in a ‘city and communities’ conversation. We heard a strong endorsement for engagement in political agendas, and why participation should be seen as a biblical mandate. Finally, Pastor Ade reminded us that by our collective engagement we are signalling our maturing presence to take an active and participatory role in local and national politics.
A VIEW OF NCLF MANIFESTO
We next heard from NCLG steering group member Bishop Joe Aldred, who gave us an overview on the Black Church Political Mobilisation – a manifesto for action (can be found here). Although produced for the 2015 election the manifesto issues are still very much relevant. Bishop Joe shared at the heart of the black church is a vision of transformation, however this does not always translate into targeted activity or structured agendas embedded in political processes. The Black Church needs a shift in its behaviour, moving from a passive and complicit voice to one of cohesion, witness and action. Collectively we must take responsibility for shaping the realities of our communities and expand our analysis beyond a victim narrative.
The Manifesto is sectioned in to nine areas, each area gives and outline of
- the current picture
- the Biblical guidance
- clear recommendations to be taken forward
Bishop Joe left the meeting with three specific actions ahead of the June elections: –
- get out and register to vote!
- use your vote, and then
- consider getting involved in local politics
We then went on to hear from Senior Pastor Bernard Morris, who set out Bristol’s local context and perspective. Pastor Morris shared some key statistical data, this included
- The population of Bristol is estimated to be 449,300 people. Bristol is the largest city in the South West and one of the ten ‘Core Cities’ in Great Britain.
- The 2011 Census shows that over the last decade Bristol has become increasingly diverse. The proportion of the population who are not ‘White British’ has increased from 12% to 22% and the proportion of people living in Bristol who were not born in the UK has increased from 8% to 15%.
- The increasing number of births was partly the result of rising fertility levels, increases in the number of women of child-bearing age and an increase in the number of non-UK born mothers. The decrease in deaths is partly a result of falling mortality rates.
- International in-migration peaked in 2004/5, the result of the Accession countries joining the European Union in 2004.
- The population of Bristol has become increasingly diverse and some local communities have changed significantly. There are now at least 45 religions, at least 187 countries of birth represented and at least 91 main languages spoken by people living in Bristol.
- While there are at least 45 religions represented in the city, Bristol is ranked 7th in England and Wales for the proportion of people stating that they have no religion – 37% of the population state they have no religion, up from 25% in 2001.
- The largest religion in Bristol is Christian (47%), although following national trends the proportion of people stating that they are Christian has fallen from 62% in 2001. Since 2001 the religion with the biggest increase in Bristol has been Islam which increased from 2% of all people in Bristol in 2001 to 5% of all people in 2011
- Overall, there are more children living in Bristol than people aged 65 and over. Bristol’s 83,800 children make up almost 19% of the total population, i.e. 1 in every five-people living in Bristol is aged under 16
- Lastly, one of most concerning statistic was the disparity between north and south Bristol, which is recorded and measured into actual life expectancy. The quality of life experience in North Bristol translates to living 10yrs longer than a life spent in south Bristol.
The statistics reveal a worrying trend for vulnerable groups in Bristol, specifically BME communities living in the south. Both the local and wider NCLF community flagged this as an area for joint discussion and action.
Senior Pastor Revd Ray Veira went on to speak about the colonial backdrop of Bristol’s history. In the 1950s many British cities, including Bristol, experienced a large increase in the number of immigrants arriving from the British Caribbean colonies. These communities responded to an invitation from the British government to come and live and work in the ‘motherland’. The request for workers had been advertised in the Caribbean islands, of Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis. This migration from the Caribbean to Bristol has contributed to the city’s culturally diverse population. There are still many people of African-Caribbean descent living in Bristol today, whose parents or grandparents who made the journey from the Islands. The contributions made to the economic, social and cultural life of Bristol are many and enjoyed by black and white populations alike.
Race relations continue to be a work-in-progress, and while some progress has been made, more needs to happen across different sections of Bristol’s social grouping and this includes clergy. Beyond the mainstream denominations there is an ongoing challenge to be seen and heard, and theological discourse is fractured along lines of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ ideologies The multi-cultural ecumenical vision in Bristol is a worthy one but the steps to make translate the vision in to practical partnerships are small and slow, yet still, there is hope around a common identity and proclamation in the work and mission of Jesus
The final presentation came from the Pentecostal Credit Union (PCU) which is an ethical financial co-operative, owned and controlled by its membership. Their offerings include low cost loans, savings, debt management and financial advice based on scriptural and ethical teaching. For more information see http://www.pcuuk.com/