Birmingham City Centre Churches Together

Claire Bowman, Ecumenical & Interfaith Coordinator for Central Engalnd Quakers reports on the latest meeting woith Birmingham City Churches together:

On Thursday the 19th of June I met with church leaders from other Birmingham city centre churches on behalf of Bull St Quaker meeting. We exchanged news from our various spiritual communities and heard from our guest speaker Rob Jones about his work at St Martins in the Bullring,directing the work of it’s Centre for Health and Healing, with 54 counsellors and around 250 clients per week. He told us that many mental health problems involved considerable issues surrounding debt, which has prompted the centre to employ debt advisers, leading to around £70,000 of debt being written off last month alone.

St Martins is awaiting a new Rector but if when they arrive they agree, there are plans to transform the cafe by giving the food away with donations from those who can afford it and from businesses within the city. Rob is also hoping that the entrance area outside the cafe will be transformed into a pop in centre, offering help and advice to those in need.

Rob was keen to tell us that applying NHS assessment tools to both the Knit and Natter Group and the councelling service at St Martins showed that the Knit and Natter group is more effective. He is keen to establish a list of groups and and events within the city centre that those in need of company might attend. We talked about the ‘social prescribing’ that many GPs are doing these days. Sometimes there can be NHS funding if a project can demonstrate that it is effective according to the criteria and Rob is prepared to help with that.

A lively discussion followed about the issues faced by city centre churches to do with mental health. Apparently the charity Shelter has obtained lottery funding for a project called ‘ ‘no wrong door’ in which they can be called for and will come and pick up anyone who has turned up at the door needing help. We wait to see how this will pan out. .. It’s very hard for churches with many bookings to always be there for those in need and sometimes other non church groups are filling the premises when needy individuals turn up, which can be confusing.