July's Community Hero – Marcus Bennett
Better late than never, here is our Community Hero for July – run in conjunction with Christian Nightlife Initiatives/Street Angels. And it's Marcus Bennett, who has had an involvement in so many local projects, despite facing considerable personal challenges of his own ...
Marcus grew up in Luton and describes himself as a Londoner who is currently living in West Yorkshire. He became a trustee for CNI Network in May 2020 and has 20+ years experience of church leadership as an Elim Pastor.
He has had involvement in starting up a wide variety of projects including Wimbledon Food Bank, one of the first one hundred Trussell Trust foodbanks to open in the UK. He is a former trustee of London’s biggest YMCA.
Marcus went to university as an agnostic, to study theology and business. Three weeks into university a friend explained the the gospel to him and he experienced, to quote John Wesley, “his heart was strangely warmed” and he committed his life to Christ. Settling into a local Elim church in Wimbledon, he went on to lead a church in Mitcham, eventually became the minister in training and taking on leading the church.
Marcus explains, “As a minister one of the people I would regularly pray with was Carolyn Skinner, who was in the process of setting up Third Space Ministries, which now heads up Club Angels.”
Marcus was involved in the ‘Love All Serve All’ outreach at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament queue, which involved sharing the love of Christ with the tens of thousands of people camping out overnight on Wimbledon Park waiting for tickets.
In 2014, he moved to West Yorkshire to lead the Elim church in Dewsbury. Marcus co-founded Dewsbury and District Street Angels at the request of the local council to operate daytime in Dewsbury town centre, helping meet needs around vulnerability, loneliness and street drinkers. During his time at Dewsbury Elim, a Romanian-speaking church was started to help support Romanian residents in the area. This helped combat poverty and promote community integration.
Marcus shares, “Sadly mental health issues meant I had to step down from pastoring the church at Dewsbury.
“Needless to say, this was a difficult time for all concerned.
“Realising that mental health is as much a medical issue as it is a spiritual one became the key to my healing and recovering.”
Over time Marcus learnt to get back into a much healthier daily and weekly routine, including a proper day of rest. Marcus encourages those who are struggling to seek help and know that recovery is possible.
“I have set up as self-employed to offer life coaching helping people to recover from burnout, or better still avoid it!
“I have a part-time role with The Torch Trust, promoting its sight-loss friendly church scheme which helps to equip churches to enable blind and partially-sighted people to have an equal, full and active role in the church community, and reach out in help with the spiritual needs of the sight loss community.”
During furlough from The Torch Trust, Marcus is volunteering with YourNeighbour.org, a network of 1300 church communities responding to the COVID-19 crisis through connecting those with needs with a local church who can respond and help through a national helpline. It supports and equips church leaders to respond to rapidly changing needs and is liaising with the Government and NHS.
Marcus became a Trustee with CNI Network as his passion is for the church to get out of its four walls to make an impact within its local communities. As CNI Network and its local projects demonstrate God’s love to the people in front of us, it is a perfect fit.
“My heart as a trustee is to help CNI Network develop and build stronger links with the local and national Church. There is a need within all organisations to look at new strategies for working in a post-Covid world and I want to work within CNI Network to make the organisation and our local projects stronger in the months and years ahead.”
Throughout his life as a Christian Marcus has seen time and again how the church can make a difference in local communities and how the people of faith can be a massive force for good within the wider society.
He concludes, “Be kind, always look to do good and ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might!’” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)