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Estates: the long-term presence of the church is a witness to the faithfulness of God

Reflections on estate ministry, as shared on Twitter by Anglican pioneer minister and school chaplain Ray Driscoll

”As my deacon year draws to a close, and I head off to a retreat, I’ve been reflecting on what has been and thinking about what I’ve learned about ministry in an estate context.

"Attractional ministry doesn’t get the same kind of traction here as it does in other contexts. People love to chat about spirituality and will open up over the garden wall but don’t think that suggests they will come to your event / supper / course.

"Therefore, it is good to spend at least as much time on the pavements as spent planning and running events. Make it your job to walk slowly through the estate, build in time to be interrupted. Here God waits for you in the unexpected.

"Here, your clergy collar is a blessing and a tool. Estate people will cut to the chase and you’ll know where you stand quickly enough. Wear it as much as you can.

"In Estates, people suffer the constant ebb and flow of funded services based on whoever in government. Therefore, they take nothing for granted. The sheer long-term presence of the church is a witness to the faithfulness of God. This is a strength and an opportunity.

"The beginning of the embodiment of that story is the “doing with” rather than “doing to”. Restoring the dignity of the individual is often the opening line of that story. I’m grateful for my incumbent teaching me this.

"Consequently, the gospel takes a different shape. Most people don’t need to be told they are sinful, they know that, not least because of the labels they carry for where they live. Here the stories of Jesus engaging with 'the tax collector and sinner' take on a living form.

"Simply retelling these encounters to the person in front of you is a kind of lectio divina, they will find themselves in the story. You’ll probably pass three Zacchaeus’ on your way to morning prayer but there are many less Nicodemus’ in your path.

"There’s something about speaking a new story corporately too. In this context the gospel is good news for the collective too, celebrating and calling out the shared good of a place. The churches task is to celebrate that, especially when no-one else does.

"Estate ministry is like no other that I've experienced. It is attritional and costly, you need endurance and a wide ranging set of skills, especially adaptability. I may have moved a mile down the road but it is like a different world!

"I still have much to learn. Questions include: What does the gospel look like to the (white van) men? How do we grow working class lay and ordained leaders? How do we as a small and low-resourced church reach the young people of our parish? The list keeps on going!"

Read more of Ray’s writing and ‘theology as conversation’ at theexchangeonline.wordpress.com

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