One Voice was delighted to welcome Kersten England, Chief Executive of City of York Council once again to address a breakfast meeting at Spurriergate on Wednesday 29th February 2012.
Kersten began by highlighting the many ways in which local government and the church in York are working together and illustrated this with several examples of progress made in the last year or two including a more joined up approach to youth work in the city. Nevertheless, she said, there is still a long way to go and not least in increasing within the council an awareness of the contribution of faith communities. Whilst local government and the faith communities have different roles there is a great deal we share in common as we work toward the best quality of life for all in our city.
In particular she highlighted the church’s ability to engage in social action, to promote volunteering, its role in caring for the spiritual needs of the community and in building community. The church does this best when it is working with those who are most on the edge. She would love to see an even greater degree of cooperation between the church, the CVS and the Council.
Kersten spoke of the City of Sanctuary initiative as one example of faith communities taking a lead and emphasised the importance of welcome and inclusivity.
York can be very parochial and not always good at recognising its own problems.
Kersten then updated us on some of the current challenges and opportunities facing the city, not least with the effects of buget cuts.
But York has a big birthday this year (York800) and the church has a good deal to contribute to the celebrations. The diary through this year presents the church with countless opportunities including the Royal visit, the Olympic torch and the Mystery Plays.
We were also joined by Liz Topi who spoke briefly about the help being offered to community groups in organising events this year and said she hoped for a whole year of celebrations especially through the (hot?) summer months. Street closures are being encouraged for community events except where this would effect bus routes. She had information packs to hand.
Kersten then fielded a variety of questions including commenting on the tension between city centre and out of town retail development in the light of the community stadium proposals. We concluded by praying for Kersten and Liz in their work.
Once again thanks to the staff of Spurriergate!