Over the January “speed bump”

Last year’s daily blog was a pain at times. Getting into the routine of writing a blog every single day was a tough challenge.

But… at least I knew where I was so to speak! I knew that I would be writing it each day and that discipline was a good thing.

But a blog like this, which is more fluid, is open to that feeling of “well, I don’t HAVE to write one today, so I’ll leave it until tomorrow, or the day after.”

That feeling of procrastination is compounded by family stuff which meant that I have put off the next step in my challenge. Writing some questions for the churches to answer.

But tonight I have made a start on bringing the mountain of data into a more manageable list!

I have decided to narrow my focus on: the income of the households, the health of the inhabitants and their quality of life. If these areas are tackled by charities or even local government organisations then that can only be a good thing.

Perhaps I will find that Saint Somebody’s has decided to tackle just one area and left (say) the health of their community members to others? Which might be fine for them, but in Saint Whoever’s parish, the local government office has just been closed so they have broadened their reach.

The Parish statistics (see earlier blog for link) only show the occupation or otherwise of the households. I need to look elsewhere if I am going to focus on household income. After all, as we all know, a job does not necessarily equal high income.

And readers of the popular press will be quick to tell you how much money those who are out of work are getting in benefits! I am looking forward to thoroughly debunking THAT myth!

Narrowing it down a bit more, but then…

Just as it seemed that I had got this thing down to a half dozen or so relevant questions, things suddenly became even more complicated.

How do we define “poor and needy”?

This is the first question. The Parish statistics (not confidential and available to read  http://www.westyorkshiredales.anglican.org/?q=content/parishes-spotlight-data ) show a mass of data. Only a statistician [thank goodness for spellcheck] can understand these. Clearly all areas of Bradford are “deprived”. No one would argue otherwise. But we need to be able to show this deprivation against a comparison if it is to make any sense.

So let’s think about our fictional inner-city church. Saint Somebody’s has an after school club. It provides fun and games for primary age school children. Many local families attend.

But – and here’s the thing – how can we show that this club is helping the local families to be less deprived? Sure, the children get fed pizza and chips at snack time (along with copious amounts of fresh fruit!). But does that improve the lives of the families, or is it just a way of getting little Jimmy out of the house for a couple of hours?

Saint Somebody’s has a different club each weekday afternoon. All of which are well attended and thriving.

But does that help the Deprivation Index? No! We need to look elsewhere for our questions.

How to choose an issue facing the local community which may (or may not!) be being helped by a church initiative. Which brings us back to the original question.

How do we define “poor and needy”?

Narrowing it down a bit

This blog needs a point.

Everything in life needs a point, but without a point a blog is just waffle. And who wants to read that?!

So initial conversations have helped me to start shaping this blog and giving it a point, a direction and (hopefully) a purpose.

The “Ten Churches” in the title have already started to be more symbolic of the “church” and its aim to improve the lives of those living in the Parish.

I’ll be taking a long, hard look at what they are doing. Yes, concentrating on the initial ten churches, but using them as a diving board to jump into the problems that face so many people living and working in the inner city.

Too early yet to start drawing up a list of specific questions, but my initial study of the statistics have shown one thing with stark realism.

Life for the majority of people in inner city Bradford is very difficult. Exactly what the issues are and what is being done to address those issues will become clearer as the year progresses.

Questions

What questions should I ask?

Have conditions improved for the “poor” members of our communities? In comparison to the Victorians, then yes, of course they have without a doubt! But if this blog is going to be relevant I’ll have to dig deeper than that.

Just saying that Saint Somebody’s sermons are better than Saint Tralala’s isn’t going to make life better. If Saint Nobody has a more lively music group than Saint Anybody, then how does that help a family without a stable income feed itself?

This is NOT a “mystery worshiper” blog. There’s lots of them already out there.

This needs to be more specific. More (dare I say it?) political.

What is Saint Whoever’s Church doing to help the vulnerable members of society? Oh, that’s a good one. I like that. Could they do more? If not why not?