It’s hard getting people to commit to training because it can be such a big time commitment but when they do it’s always a fantastic experience and makes such a difference to the work locally. When Ian came back from 6 Day Training he was fired up to get things going in the church and so he led and organised our first small team meeting at New Testament for 2012.
We have decided that there are two great opportunities in the calendar around which we can organise and mobilise the congregation to take action. The first is the election of the Mayor of London on May 3rd so we have agreed to do a big voter turnout drive on April 1st. It will allow us to get the wider church involved and to increase the voter turnout in Willesden which is one of the lowest turnout areas in the whole borough. Democratic particiption is so crucial and we have an opportunity to make sure everyone gets involved.
The other opportunity we identified was June 9th 2012 when London Citizens will launch the 100 Days of Peace in the run up to the Olympics. It’s an old tradition from ancient Greece when the soldiers would lay down their swords to allow the solders to travel safely to the Games where they would compete. We want to revive that idea and make it about creating safer streets in the capital 50 days before and 50 days after the London 2012 Olympics.
We went out on a little practice City Safe walk to speak to local shopkeepers about their hopes, fears, experience of the police and how we could make life better for them too. I paired up with Josephine and we went to five or six shops and most felt it was a pretty safe neighbourhood. Until we met the shopkeeper who runs the Off-License, his experience was totally different. He said during the daytime it’s a safe community but after 6pm when all the other shops have closed he starts to experience trouble. He told us one harrowing story of being knifed in the arm in a fight over the cash in the till and although it happened in January 2011 he is still waiting for his insurance company to refund the money. Despite the police station being around the corner, they take so long to come, he has stopped bothering to call them. It was a really important story and when we evaluated our practice walk we realised that we definitely need to build up Willesden High Road as a City Safe zone.
So, the New Testament Church of God team is taking on City Safe. After the election we are going to do a big push to raise the profile of our work but in the mean time, we divided the high street into sections and the 12 team members, in pairs, took a section where they would go in and speak to shopkeepers over the coming month. We are going to meet again on March 20th to evaluate and plan for our Stand Up and Take Charge voter action on April 1st.
There is so much energy at the church but Ian now has the tools to galvanise and organise that team so they can maximise their impact in the local community.