Tron St Mary’s Church
For Reverend Jill Clancy of Tron St Mary’s Church *, the most important part of her job is being able to relate to the needs of her congregation.
“How can I speak about the needs of this Parish if I don’t live here, see it for myself and become a part of it?” she asks.
Jill lives on a council estate near where her church is situated amid the backdrop of the famous Red Road Flats: high rise blocks which were built in the 1960s for working class families but have since degenerated into ‘slum’ dwellings.
The Red Road flats are now predominantly used to house asylum seekers awaiting the results of their cases – yet the decision to house vulnerable new arrivals in the blocks has been highly controversial.
Many feel the crumbling, isolated blocks are unsuitable for people fleeing persecution or conflict.
Others point out that the sudden influx of newcomers has had a destabilising effect on an already impoverished local population.
The Church has to balance these competing concerns – and relate to the needs of the whole congregation – whilst playing a crucial role in supporting new arrivals, and helping them integrate.
One key initiative has been the creation of a craft group where people from across the community teach each other different skills, such as cooking, and share stories from around the world.
St Mary’s is also supporting the nursery school, and is soon hoping to employ a family support worker who Jill hopes will be able to work across generations as well as different cultural groups.
One major challenge for the church has been to deal with the resentment that has built up around the myth that asylum seekers are enjoying better treatment than those who have lived in the community for generations.
However, Jill believes the diverse nature of the community should be seen as a strength and wants the church she leads to be seen as progressive and open.
It’s a philosophy which is reflected in the way worship is conducted at the church.
Jill typically asks people to introduce each other during her sermons, which are often followed by tea and coffee.
“The church must be seen to be going out to people, not to just be concerned with itself,” she says. “We go out to people and if they want to come to church it’s OK, but it’s also OK if they don’t.”
(*please note, since this research was carried out, Rev Jill Clancy has taken up a new position)