October saw us rely more fully on faith support. Trusting God will provide through people who know us, trust us and believe in what we are doing has not been easy, but Anji and I can now engage more fully in our unique vocation here. We also have the needed space to build capacity for future impact and a Sabbath day once a week! Thanks to your support these highlights happened this month:
Our residential community in Newbigin House has grown to 7 resident people as well as 2 alpacas, 2 lizards, 4 chickens and pug called Yoda. This month we have also had over 25 guests stay with us from all over the world with over 200 different people coming through the old vicarage for various groups, training, meetings, meals…. and mayhem!
Local ministry in our Winson Green neighbourhood has gone to another level. Weekly community meals, weekly prison ministries, family outing to Blackpool, Grow mental health support group started, youth ministry. We now also help lead Prison chapel one a month and a local church service once a month too. Just to name a few of things happening! Anji also got her ‘FAB Community Hub’ building at the local Oasis Foundry school so there is more space for youth, family and community initiatives. Neighbourhood leaders have come together to form Newbigin Community Trust which was approved by the Charity Commission to give local leaders a greater voice in renewing our neighbourhood together.
- See Newbigin Community Trust’s vision and ethos here:
Raising-up of more resilient urban leaders through our School for Urban Leadership has begun. We launched new weekly leadership programs this term with Newbigin Associates (7 community leaders in Winson Green), MA in Urban Mission (9 urban leaders with University of Manchester’s Nazarene College), Gas Street Group (11 urban leaders exploring urban mission) as well as Missio Dei retreat day (4 urban leaders for discernment), an Immersion Course weekend in Winson Green (9 CMS Pioneer leaders) and ran a retreat day with Baptist ordinants (30 leaders at Bristol Baptist). We applied for the Newbigin School for Urban Leadership to be a Community Interest Company and had Lianne join us a day a week to be our administrator to help this entity be like a strong trunk to so that our dreams for urban impact can grow like branches.
Going ‘upstream’ to try and prevent people being pushed into torrents of urban poverty and to fight for more just and sustainable urban future at a global level has had some important breakthroughs too. October 15-20 I went to Quito, Equator to co-lead a delegation called ‘Urban Shalom Project’ to the United Nation’s Habitat III for the future of cities. We ran a pre-conference (The Gospel and the future of cities) to help our delegation to prepare to represent 600 million Christians at the UN gathering with 45,000 leaders. I had the privilege of being present in the assembly hall when the nations of the world committed to the New Urban Agenda for more sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities. A campaign, publications and forums to help Christians engage with this global agenda will be launched next year and I will continue to co-Convene as Urban Shalom Project as part of the co-alition made up of Micah/World Evangelical Alliance and Lausanne.
- Here is our press release
None of this would have been possible without your trust and belief in us! We are so very grateful for the providence of God through so many generous friends, families and communities. Transitioning back to faith support is not simple, but we are conscious of Hudson Taylor’s encouragement that ‘God’s work done in God’s ways will not lack God’s resources.’ Thanks for standing with us as this adventure unfolds.
Ash and Anji Barker
Here is a summary of activities Anji helps lead based with Oasis Hub Foundry and Bolton (FAB).
Newbigin House partners with and helps host with many of these community building activities. A lot has started to happen, but there is so much more that is possible.
We are so very grateful for all your love and support of us. As you may know last month we returned from a month annual leave back in Bangkok and it was quite an emotional time for us. Its been two years since Anji and Aiden left Bangkok and a little longer for Ash and longer again for Amy. It was amazing to be altogether again and feel how loved we all are, but it was also overwhelming. My birthday, for example, was only a few days after we’d arrived, was only going to be a few of my old football coaches, but ended up with over 50 people sharing food, banners and gifts! Everywhere we went in Klong Toey it seemed that people wanted to express how much they valued us and they remembered even the smallest things we shared over 12 years. This carried on for four weeks! We had some breaks to the beach and river too, but even these neighbours wanted to join us and not waste a second together.
There are still some very real challenges in Klong Toey, not least a new threat of demolition, but we are grateful for all the wonderful local leaders who have been raised up to meet them. We feel we did all we could with what we had over 12 years (and over 20 with UNOH) and that local leaders are going further now than we could ourselves. A real encouragement was that some of the key local organisations we invested in with their community leaders like Cooking with Poo, Ta Rau church and Klong Toey Community Centre are still thriving, even though UNOH workers are not formally involved in leadership with them now. The importance of investing in community leaders was not lost on us. Nothing invested in faith, hope and love with community leaders is ever wasted and this what we want to do more of moving forward now.
It was wonderful to return home to Winson Green too. Some hopes are taking longer than we expected, but we are well under way with setting up our dreams and feeling the love here too. Our bed, for example, was covered in cling film when we got home to a house full of people ready for a BBQ as soon as we walked through the door! Over the first month back over the summer holidays we have engaged with hundreds of neighbours in holiday programs, outings, meals and mentoring. Not least has been our work in 3 prisons and in mentoring and housing some on release.
To help give space to see our dreams mature here, Ash will finish his 3 day staff role with Yellow Ribbon Community Chaplaincy. Ash will now volunteer in Winson Green prison as part of the prison chaplaincy team and we will rely further on faith support, living in Newbigin House and setting up two entities for our future hopes. Newbigin School for Urban Leadership will have an international perspective for developing diverse urban leaders who can help shape our new urban world and Newbigin House Community Trust that will enable us to help see a seedbed for urban change emerge in Winson Green. Latest updates for both can be found here: NewbiginHouse.uk and we would love your continued prayers and support more than ever.
Ash and Anji
PS Here are some key events coming up for us over the next month or so with regular events in brackets. Please pray!
16/9 Ash picks up 2 prisoners on release at HMP Hewell Prison and helps them get to Probation and new housing in our neighbourhood (Ash regularly visits, picks up and mentors men coming out of prison)
16-17/9 Yellow Ribbon Community Prison Chaplaincy and Mentoring Training, Newbigin House. (we regularly host these 2 day trainings)
20/9 Neighbourhood Community Dinner, Newbigin House (every Tuesday night)
21/9 Anji runs a Drop-in art and help with forms with Centre Link and Oasis Hub, Newbigin House (every Wednesday morning)
21/9 Ash visits prisoners in HMP Birmingham, Winson Green men’s prison (every Wednesday)
23/9 Anji runs Art group in Drake Hall women’s prison with Yellow Ribbon, Oasis and Gas Street Church (every Friday afternoon)
27/9 Ash starts teaching an MA in Urban Mission course in Manchester with Nazarene Theological College (Manchester University) (each Tuesday afternoon till the end of the year)
2/9 Chapel service in HMP Birmingham, Winson Green (We help first Sunday of the month)
6/10 12:30-3:30pm, West Midlands Urban Political and Public Theology Group, Newbigin House (we host one a quarter)
6/10 Start the ‘Newbigin Associates’ local community leadership development (12 month Award course for those living in Winson Green/Handsworth, with Thursday Night Circle 4:30-6pm key times, with some seminars and retreats)
8/10 Missio Dei Discernment Retreat day, Newbigin House (we host one of these a quarter and offer in other places too)
9/10 Help run our first worship service at Bishop Latimer United Church, Winson Green (we will now run second Sunday of each month)
13/10 Start ‘Urban Mission Orientation Course’ as part of ‘Gas Street Groups’ (for the next 10 Thursday evenings 7:30-9pm), Newbigin House.
15-20/10 Help run a Summit and advocacy into the UN Habitat III Conference as part of ISUM/WEA/Lausanne/CCDA/Micah’s ‘Urban Shalom Project’. Ash is co-facilitating the Summit and ‘base-camp’ helping Christian engage with this UN gathering deciding the urban agenda for the next 20 years in Quito, Ecuador.
23/10 Ash and Anji being interviewed at Gas Street Church, Birmingham.
2/11 Ash speaks for Bristol Baptist College and city wide event, St Marks Baptist, Bristol
8/11, Ash speaks at CMS Future-Present Conference, Oxford
23-24/11 Ash speaks at New Wine Urban Conference, Lemington Spa.
26/11 Ash speaks at Nazarene Ministers Gathering, Manchester
PPS. Here are some pics from our time in Bangkok.
Thanks to all who have stood with us. It feels like we have turned a corner and started to move beyond survival mode into new ways of sustainable impact. We would especially value your prayers and input as we build foundations for these two new entities we hope will help give us the platforms to do our vocations well for the long term.
Newbigin House Community Trust: God is bringing our neighbours together to dream of cultivating a real seedbed for urban change and renewal in Winson Green and Handsworth. Last week was significant for us as we appointed local trustees and sent application forms into the Charity Commission for this entity. Two months ago we moved our family into the Newbigin House building, a 7 bedroom former Vicarage in the heart of the neighbourhood, and already over 300 people have come together for meals, meetings and mayhem, not to mention enjoying the alpacas! The dreams, plans and actions together have more than begun!
Newbigin School for Urban Leadership: Though also based from Winson Green, we hope this vehicle will enable us to take up opportunities where ever we are invited to devel op urban leaders. This dream has taken many forms over the years, but investing deeply in diverse urban Christian leaders needs to be our focus now. Over the next few decades, could we help identify, develop and equip Christian leaders who could seriously shape our new urban world from the ground up? As well as discernment retreats, immersion courses, practical research and advocacy networks, we are specifically praying for 32 emerging urban leaders to join our new pilot programs ‘Change Makers UK’ (for 20 emerging leaders nominated from around the UK) and ‘Newbigin Associates’ (community formation program based in Winson Green) from October 2016. Please pray too and nominate some urban leaders here!
Ash and Anji Barker
PS. So very grateful for the providence of God through so many generous friends, families and communities. Transitioning back to faith support has not been easy, but we are so conscious of Hudson Taylor’s encouragement that ‘God’s work done in God’s ways will not lack God’s resources.’ Thanks friends for standing with us as this adventure unfolds. Giving is possible.. via Stewardship UK, GMP in OZ, CMF in USA.
Please stand with us as we step our in faith in new ways in Winson Green and beyond. Lots of news and pictures in this one!
Ash and Anji Barker