At the September Presbytery meeting, Helen Pope spoke about the New Connections Project, which originated in the Priority Areas committee of Hamilton Presbytery.
The intention of the project is to introduce the principles of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) as a way of enhancing the life of communities here in Lanarkshire.
Helen contrasted Asset Based Community Development with approaches of the past, in which churches often began by identifying the needs of an area and then developing programmes and projects to meet their needs.
New Connections, drawing on the principles of ABCD, begins not by focusing on the needs or deficits of a community, but rather by discovering the assets/strengths and talents that are found in abundance in every community. Having uncovered the richness of talent and experience the New Connections project brings together people from the churches and others from the wider community, to join as equal partners in developing initiatives which will enhance community life.
Over the past year, Helen has introduced this approach to 3 parishes within the Presbytery. In Craigneuk (Wishaw) people from the churches and community have formed a weekly, all age singing group. In Thrashbush, (Airdrie) and Townhead (Coatbridge) new Parent and Toddler groups have been developed and in Townhead a craft group too.
In each of these settings the churches have established new connections with many people, not by “serving them”, but by joining together, building new friendships and giving opportunities for the gifts found in both church and community to be used for the benefit of people living in these places.
Helen indicated that early in 2016 New Connections would like to pilot this approach in a further two parishes and invited expressions of interest from congregations within Hamilton Presbytery.