2 October 2014

More on the Clitheroe Job Centre

Since my blog post the other day, I've had a flurry of visits to this blog, in fact hundreds of pageviews. Clearly people are interested in this issue.

So here's a final encouragement to get involved in the consultation. If you're in Clitheroe, fill out one of the postcards in your churches this weekend, or write to Steve Johnson. Also, let Nigel Evans know what you think. I did, and he got back to me straight away to say he was in complete agreement. The town council have also had their say in the consultation, voicing many of the same concerns you've seen on this blog.

All that remains is for huge numbers of individuals to get involved too. I'm sure many have written in already, but if you haven't, please do.

30 September 2014

The Closure of Clitheroe Job Centre

Back in May when Clitheroe Christians in Partnership hosted a conference called Feed a Friend, we were challenged by the speakers to get back to 'old fashioned' campaigning. The instant nature of the internet and the ubiquity of online petitions and so-called 'slacktivism' have brought about a reduction in direct contact with decision makers. People seem less likely to correspond directly with their MP or with other representatives and more likely to simply 'like' a Facebook page, or change their Social Media avatar in support of a campaign.

We were challenged, at the conference, to put some more effort into our campaigning. Of course, the theme of 'Feed a Friend' was food poverty, but the principle holds for all other areas of social justice. The challenge was to get back to direct contact: postcards, letters, emails and MP's surgeries. We came away from the conference fired up, and many of us have tried to be more active in our campaigning for matters like these.

One of the things that's getting me fired up at the moment is the proposed closure of the Clitheroe Job Centre. Clitheroe is a market town. It sits in the splendid countryside of the Ribble Valley. It draws people from a wide area to use its services, cultural venues and retail outlets. Clitheroe is an ideal place for a rural job centre - the current centre's footfall may be comparatively low, but it draws clients from a wide, rural area. Public transport into Clitheroe from the outlying villages of the valley is reasonable and not too arduous. So why, then, are we faced with the closure of this essential service in such an ideal location?

The answer, as always, is about financial cost. The existing building is poorly suited to the services it now provides, and is far too large. Fine. I understand the need to reduce expenditure. But surely that can be achieved by looking at an alternative site in the town, rather than withdrawing the service altogether!
If the Clitheroe Job Centre closes, clients will have to travel to Accrington or Blackburn. Although these aren't very far away, and both are served by public transport, the people who have to make the trek will lose half a day in the process. They will also have to fork out for bus or train fares which they can ill afford. Additionally, the extra travel time will increase the risk of missing appointments, which will, in turn, lead to benefit sanctions. Those people will then be beating a path to the door of the Ribble Valley Foodbank when they can't afford to feed their families.  
Clitheroe Christians in Partnership have today launched a coordinated postcard campaign to protest at the proposed closure. Churches across the town will receive a batch of postcards in time for this Sunday's services, and we are encouraging our congregations to sign the cards, which we'll then deliver to the person leading the consultation.
We don't know what the effect of our efforts might be, but I think back to the postcard campaigns urging supermarkets to stock fairtrade goods back in the 90s. They clearly worked, so perhaps our local postcard campaign will make people listen.

The Local papers, the Clitheroe Advertiser and Lancashire Telegraph, have given the situation good coverage. We now need people to get involved as individuals. So if you want to fill in one of our cards, head to a Clitheroe church on Sunday. Or better still, email the man running the consultation, Steve Johnson. And of course, don't forget our MP, Nigel Evans.

The main message is, don't assume everyone else will do this. If you believe this is an important issue, then you know what to do!

8 May 2014

The road to Emmaus

Today we had our monthly children's church; a 1/2 hour service for pre-schoolers and their parents or carers. I looked at last Sunday's lectionary, and thought we should have a stab at the road to Emmaus. it's a nice visual story which children of this age can identify with. Often we use a technique we've called the 'Bible Storyboard' where we draw the story on a large (A1) piece of paper as we tell it, paraphrased from the biblical original. Sometimes we use a Godly Play story, with the appropriate set of toys. Sometimes we act out a story with props and accessories. Today I decided to look for a video, and I was not disappointed. We watched this video a total of three times, because they loved it so much:

We had a bit of discussion about whether Jesus was actually an elephant, but the children and adults all loved it.

At the end of our time of worship, we then all set about creating our own road to Emmaus scene using biscuits, ready made icing, gravel (coloured sprinkles) for the road, and jelly babies for the characters in the story. These went down well in more ways than one!

The most important thing about a service like this is that the children have fun in church. If they do that, they are more likely to remember the stories we tell them, and more likely to want to come back. Our numbers are small at children's church, but the children who come keep coming back.

So thanks to the people who put together the video we used - I'll be subscribing to their channel in case there's anything else we can use.