Welcome - Bishop Laurie Green
5. East London
6. South Essex
b. Bible Study
Here in the Chelmsford Diocese, what has become known as
'regeneration' is all around us. Anyone will be struck
by the building projects that are either underway or at the planning stage here
in East London and
All this is very exciting but it also raises a host of
questions of deep concern to Christians. How will one small part of the
In 2004, Bishop John Gladwin asked me to oversee concerns for Regeneration and Development across the Diocese, so I invited a team to join me in steering our programme. Among other things we scheduled a very successful Conference for the Diocese in March 2005 when clergy and laity gathered and shared a wealth of expertise and experience of regeneration projects, and discussed the issues they raise. That has given rise to this booklet. Thanks are especially due to Steve Williams and Crispin White for their help - you will find their contact details in this booklet. Do read it, share it with others, and let our team know the outcome. Enjoy the read!
+Laurie Green, Bishop of Bradwell
This report reviews what is happening in
our communities in Essex and
· a summary of the issues raised at the Diocesan Conference on Community Regeneration & Development - 5th March 2005
· updates on what's happened since then
· questions for the church about regeneration
· questions for our society about the way it lives
This booklet begins as our conference did, by looking at the global picture in order to understand what's happening locally. It then reports on what's happening around our Diocese before setting out some issues that we must address together - theological and practical issues which demand response.
· We live in a global world where production can be switched between continents at the click of a button to save costs.
· In general, production is moving to the places where labour is cheapest. Therefore the factories of the expensive West lie empty and derelict.
· High cost centres can only survive if they offer efficiency and quality skills. Therefore the West is concentrating increasingly on the service and financial sectors.
· The Global system is based on markets and money. Money flows between financial centres instantly, largely controlled from the West.
· Most capital is in the hands of multi-national companies, so governments have less say in what happens. That's why governments create trade alliances and international institutions - to have some effect on international capital.
· Cities across the world are growing at a phenomenal rate and populations are moving all the time.
· There are vast building programmes in many cities as population chases the jobs and the wealth.
· In pursuit of high returns, developers create a 'regeneration culture', refurbishing the old and building new areas - some wonderful, some just more urban sprawl.
· People are continually on the move.
· Our jobs are less secure - we are all caught up in globalisation. So we may be forced to change jobs more than we would like and move home to do so. Families become more scattered and support in times of trouble can therefore become more difficult.
· Traditional patterns of family life are declining as the pressures build (fewer marriages and fewer children living with both natural parents).
· New houses are being built to suit the new patterns - some in existing areas where there are already churches, some in totally new locations.
· People may spend little time in the locations where they live - a mobile society - a 'pick & mix' society - and we buzz around to pick the activities we want, wherever they are, when we want them and how we want them.
· Church may become one of the 'pick & mix' options. We go where we want and when we want, but we may not attend near where we live and our attendance may be erratic, with little local commitment.
Some are working longer
hours. Others work more flexible patterns to accommodate childcare responsibilities.
Employment is increasing, especially among women. People spend so much of the
time at work that our industrial
· Big questions of faith are raised by all these changes.
In 2003, as a result of much research and earlier reports the Government published
'Sustainable communities: building for the future'
The document says that a 'sustainable community' will include:
Flourishing local economy;
safe and healthy environment;
designed to support amenities;
quality private and public transport infrastructure;
good well-designed and useful buildings;
a mix of homes and tenures;
quality public services - education, health, etc.;
vibrant local culture;
a sense of place;
links with wider society.
But the document also proposed a massive building programme for the South East - that's here where we live.
We worry that what Professor Klunzmann has said might prove true: "regeneration begins with poetry but ends with real estate".
o Royal Docks (11,000 jobs, 10,300 dwellings)
o Barking Reach / London Riverside (4,200 jobs, 21,600 dwellings)
o Southend / Rochford (16,000 jobs, 10,600 dwellings)
· Stansted / M11 (31,300 jobs, 27,000 dwellings)
Rest of Essex (9,600
jobs, 44,100 dwellings - mainly in Colchester,
The target figures keep changing but those quoted here are from London Regional Plan for the period 2005-08 and the East of England Regional Plan for the period from 2001-2021 for new builds.
The Royal Docks and
· London Riverside (Barking) where a residential development with some limited employment opportunities will take place. The size of that development depends on the extension of the Docklands Light Railway to serve the area without which there can be no question of achieving the target levels of domestic occupation. Employment will largely be sustained elsewhere, making transport essential.
· Other key regeneration projects within the London Thames Gateway area will be in central Barking, and Rainham and there will be significant developments on the fringes of the Gateway area in centres like Ilford and Romford, largely at the edict of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for increased housing density and also in Walthamstow, Leyton and Leytonstone.
The vital understanding which has to be
grasped about regeneration in
It is starting now! It
is part of the largest regeneration project in
· It is happening in an area of substantial historic deprivation.
It is being undertaken
in one of the most significantly multicultural and multifaith
· In that context it is exciting, dramatic and very challenging to faith communities.
The Essex part of the Thames Gateway contains
three centres of development - Thurrock,
· Regeneration of each town centre
· Development of new business opportunities mainly logistics, high value industries, research and leisure
· Education - Improve schooling as the population is below average in terms of qualifications. Specialist education to satisfy specific business needs such as logistics (docks, distribution, etc.) and expansion at university level (especially the new University/College in Southend)
· Housing to satisfy the needs of the new workers being drawn in and to overcome problems of affordability, especially in relation to key workers
The government has just
given conditional approval for the development of a major new container port to
be built on the Thames in
Developers are seeking
planning permission to build a town of 14,000 dwellings on Green Belt land in
· Major development of the airport at Stansted with the addition of a new runway. There are now 21.4 million passenger movements a year and rising. In 2005 they will apply for permission to grow above 25 million - single runway maximum capacity would be 35 million - and a public enquiry about a second runway is expected in 2007/8. Currently 10,000 work there and this is expected to grow to 16,000 in only five years!
All along the M11 we
may well see new towns grow up from
· A major upgrade to the A120 has also increased accessibility in an east/west direction.
The Haven Gateway (which covers
· As with much new development, there is a feeling that insufficient attention is paid to local views, that the necessary infrastructure, if provided, comes too late and there is a mistrust of officials and developers because of perceived broken promises.
Many people in
The many cultures,
traditions and faiths of
· In all the development proposals transport is key to success. Without the necessary transport links from Docklands Light Railway, the proposed new transit system, new railway lines and connections, the proposals are unachievable.
· There are many other concerns to be addressed like the burying of high level power cables, flood control, employment protection, education and training opportunities ... and so on.
· For some residents the proposals for vastly increased amounts of housing are a threat because we do not seem to have the wherewithal to cope with the challenges that will bring. Others see a vision of what regeneration might mean in terms of new and real opportunity for all who live in the area.
As the regeneration
begins so real opportunities will arise for those whose eyes have been opened
to the prospects and who are well placed to benefit. Such opportunities will
exist for those who already live in
· The churches have a significant role to play, along with other faith communities, in securing these opportunities for the development of the wider community. In doing that they should put themselves alongside those decision-makers who are deeply committed to ensuring that their labours result in appropriate sustainability.
· And then ... of course there are The Olympics! This is, so to speak, 'the icing on the cake'. It will guarantee the success of the regeneration project if every issue is addressed with its long term effects in mind. This will require commitment and diligence on the part of all. We have our part to play.
· Will the necessary transport infrastructures (roads, rail, sea and air) be put in place?
· What will be the effect of the developments on the environment? (Will we have enough water in our taps and not too much so as to cause flooding?)
· How will our rural areas be affected? (Affordable housing for locals, shops, schools, etc.)
· What is the right amount of new housing and where should it be put? (Note that the difference between the lowest proposals and the highest is 16%.)
· What should be the right mix of totally private housing as against affordable and diverse housing developments?
· Who is going to pay for all the infrastructure and the cleaning up of contaminated sites?
· What exactly are these "Sustainable Communities" that we are supposed to be building? What makes a "Sustainable Community" and is that what we are getting?
· Compact density creates the critical mass necessary to provide the amenities for community sustenance. But people prefer to live in lower density projects, which end up as urban sprawl with no shops, doctors or other services.
· How can the church help to ensure that the voice of the poor and disadvantaged is heard?
· We are asked to be a partner with other players but in the past the Church of England has eagerly been a partner only to find we have been left holding the baby when others pull out - with church centres too grand and expensive for us to operate on our own.
· When we encounter so much 'one size fits all' development of cloned high-streets and cul-du-sac suburbs, how can individual and local identity be safeguarded? Should we rely on shops to sell us an identity? Under God we are worth more than that.
· We are building houses to cater for singletons, one- parent families and rootless workers. Can this be right?
· People move to soulless suburbs and get 'new town blues' because of debt, commuting and insecurity. Our answer is to appeal for better mental health care rather than tackle the causes. This cannot be right. We believe people come before profit.
· What happens to those abandoned or displaced by the new build? Some older areas are divided off from their new neighbours by substantial new walls or 'fire- breaks' to guard the new property prices. Made in the image of the Holy Trinity, human beings are mutual, social beings - we belong together!
· Some of our new build is under dangerous electricity pylons and on toxic land. Our flood-plains and wild life are under threat. What price God's creation?
Concerning the Church generally
· Can we develop a 'theology of regeneration' that speaks to the world and is true to the gospel?
· How can we best be involved with Local & Central Government to enable the church's voice to be heard?
· How can we provide worship facilities in major new developments, where there are no convenient existing buildings?
· What sort of facilities should we seek? Dedicated buildings, multi-use church buildings, worship in secular buildings?
· What forms of church are suitable in our culture?
· We mustn't forget our existing communities, including the rural.
· We have a Diocesan Environmental Policy. How do we apply it to ourselves and to areas of regeneration?
· How can the church share good practice in these matters?
· How do we work effectively with other denominations and other faiths?
Concerning our communities and local congregations
· How can we, Christians at the local level, get involved in what is going on?
· What are the ways we can be involved in our communities in addition to providing worship?
· No one size fits all but we need to learn from the experience of others in similar situations.
· What are the priorities for the local churches and what do we give up to achieve them?
We hope that, if you've read this far, you will have felt concerned to tackle the issues that the Regeneration of the South East raises. More copies of this booklet are available from firstname.lastname@example.org 01375 673806 (Bishop Laurie's office) and from the Revd Steve Williams email@example.com 01277 811223 Why not get your friends interested, draw a group together to discuss the issues and plan action and let us know how you're getting on? All across the Diocese groups are forming.
For example, a deanery or town group could:
· Find out about the developments planned for your area. Visit the local Council and ask to see plans. The East of England Regional Spacial Strategy (to be found at www.eera.gov.uk) gives overall figures of housing and job plans by Local Authority area.
· Ask how these plans are likely to effect your church?
· Are there plans for major new housing or industry?
· Are there other changes - road and services infrastructure, etc. planned? If not why not?
· What opportunities are there for Christians to get involved and contribute? Who else is concerned and active?
· What processes might we engage in within our locality?
· What are the resource implications of what we want do?
The number of houses that we should be building is not a simple matter to resolve. The factors involved include:
the number of houses needed to replace those becoming uninhabitable
the drift to the south. In these days of international mobility of labour does any government have power to control were people live? They need to be where the jobs are.
the increasing number of single person households (we are living longer, marrying later, separating more) requires single or two-bedroom properties. But we are building mainly larger houses! (One in three houses built in the South East are 4 bedroom or bigger because they are more profitable for the developers.)
The ending of council house building has left a vacuum which has not been filled by Registered Social Landlords (RSL) building for low income households.
Is a sacrosanct Green Belt the best way in environmental terms? Because people like houses with gardens and there is limited space for this Inside a city, building then takes place outside the Green Belt. But then people have to commute across it to reach their work! Would a wider Green Belt but with more building allowed within it be better environmentally and serve a better life-style? Yes or no?
Similarly is it always best to build on brownfield sites (those previously used, e.g. old industrial sites) before we turn to green sites? Old industrial sites may not be large enough to support the necessary schools, shops, health and community centres. So they become soulless dormitories and encourage increased car use in order to reach distant services. Could a better approach be to 'green' some brownfield sites and create a viable community on 'green' areas?
Here are two example studies. Each adopts a different way of allowing the Bible to speak to our 'Regeneration' situation. Try both approaches in your group and gain fresh insights from each.
BIBLE STUDY ONE: Working from the situation to the Bible
· Ask your Bible study group to list the issues they see as major challenges of regeneration locally (or further afield).
· Working as a group, against each issue on your list indicate any biblical passages which come to mind which have similar concerns or dynamics.
· Discuss together what light those biblical passages throw upon your issues. List them.
· What does this new insight prompt you to do or to think?
Some people find the second activity above rather difficult. After using the group knowledge and information therefore you might take along a Biblical Concordance and look up your key issue words with the group, A concordance lists all the biblical words alphabetically and then directs you to chapter and verse.
i. remember that Jesus was a carpenter and builder during the Roman and Herodian period so he saw lots of 'regeneration' first hand.
ii. In the Old Testament the book of Nehemiah is a story all about regeneration.
iii. You may not live in the city, but remember that, by today's standards, the Bible uses the word 'city' to refer to quite small towns and large villages, so those passages may apply to you.
You will be helped in all this by
reading books and journals that make these connections. An obvious choice for
our Diocese is, Urban Ministry and the
BIBLE STUDY TWO: Working from the Bible to the situation
As an example of this method, let's take two well-known passages and see what each prompts us to think and do about regeneration.
First, a more negative reading.
· Read the passage aloud and note the central events and turning points of the narrative. Notice that the Bible is often concerned with migrations of people. Notice how the technology allows particular choices. Note their fear and their intention. Note how they build and to what end. What does God do?
· Now go through the story and look for some deeper understanding of it. You might ask questions like: why does it talk about language? What has language got to do with building structures? Why does God judge them? What might they have done? So what was God trying to save them from?
· Acknowledging that this ancient story comes to us from a very different context, nevertheless, what does it say to our situation? Are there any connections with our present 'regeneration' expansion? Does this story point to any dangers? List them - and allow the Spirit to take your imagination on from the story to list other dangers too.
Second, we look at a positive reading.
The New Jerusalem: Revelation 21: 2-4. 22-27
· Again, start by reading these verses aloud noting the main points (there are more details elsewhere, but for now stay with these key verses) Notice that the city is seen as a gift from God. Note what is implied about the function of the city. What is new / different about this city? What is its relationship to those outside it? What must people be like who live in it?
· Now look for some meanings. What does this passage say are the marks of a good city (or town or community)? At its best, what can a city be?
· In our own situation, what does all this say we must concentrate on when it comes to 'regeneration'?
Finally, compare the negatives and the positives from these two studies (you may of course have found positives in the first, and vice versa) and ask. What insights does all this hold for our experience of Regeneration today? And therefore how should we think and what should we do?
In all this, don't forget to pray through the issues and your insights - and why not bring all that to your Sunday worship?
This report has been produced by the Diocesan Regeneration Group under the leadership of Bishop
Laurie Green - Bishop of Bradwell. The website www.lauriegreen.org [updated, ed.] offers more resources.
It is hoped that this booklet will encourage further consideration of these issues. For further advice or support please contact -
· The Rev'd Steve Williams (Thames Gateway Officer - Bradwell Area) - 01277 811223 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Do keep in touch with us and let us know what you have done and the thinking you have generated. If you write reports or comments please let us have them digitally, if possible, and be sure to tell us where they originate and if you mind us publishing them. Many thanks.