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Gareth Brown heads up our Cinnamon Advisors Team. Find out how you can help Gareth to develop our Community Transformation Toolkit:

“For the last 20 years of my life I have lived in a town called Smethwick on the edge of the Black Country in the West Midlands.  

During those two decades, I’ve worked for my church on a couple of occasions – most recently in 2012 when I was given the title of Community Ambassador.  

Believe you me, it wasn’t as grand as it sounds. In effect, I was more of a community connector. The church employed me not to start any projects, but just to spend time listening to the community. 

On the face of it, it was quite a passive role. But it proved to be incredibly strategic.

During one prayer walk through the community, I passed a derelict piece of land where a small wild-flower meadow was beginning to grow.  

I’ve seen countless building projects take place in Smethwick over the years and land is often abandoned before the developers set in. 

There was something profound about the way this small, yet beautifully formed meadow had sprung up in the middle of the rubble.

Listening is as Important as Action

“As individuals and churches, we often focus on building, growing and developing new initiatives. But this small meadow illustrated for me the beauty of the ‘waiting’ in between.

On a personal level, it spoke to me of my own need to be repurposed for mission and encouraged me to spend more time listening and being rather than building and doing.  

In response, I got involved in community life outside the church. I took opportunities to work with schools, community groups and local government whilst also exploring new ways of collaborating with other churches in the town.

The time of waiting, connecting and listening became as beautiful as the time of building. In fact, the waiting actively informed many of the actions that we took.”

Churches Have a Vital Role to Play in Restoration

“When I think of transforming communities, I often think of verses in Ezekiel 36 that talk about a restored land coming back to life.

Verse 34 is particularly powerful when it says, “The fields that used to lie empty and desolate in plain view of everyone will again be farmed.”

Many churches often feel like they are living in a wasteland rather than in a beautiful garden. In those times of waiting we need to find where God is at work and see the beauty there.   

It’s something I think of when I contemplate my own community, which is frequently seen by outsiders as an area of high deprivation. When it comes to unemployment and poor housing, we’re often at the bottom of the league tables.

In the past, many organisations have come in an tried to solve our ‘issues’. When austerity hit and funding was cut – many simply left. 

Churches however, remained steadfast in their commitment. It’s something I see repeated across the country. 

Having walked with my community for so long, I have seen some remarkable transformation take place – but I’m also aware of those areas that are still beautifully formed meadows, just waiting to be repurposed.”

We Want to Hear from You

“The team of Cinnamon Advisors that I support across the UK and Ireland are here to walk alongside churches through their journey of rebuilding and repurposing.  

Alongside the one-to-one support we provide, we’re currently developing a comprehensive online toolkit of resources to enable more churches to engage in the journey of community transformation.

The toolkit will go beyond simply providing advice on social action and help churches assess their calling, the resources they have and their wider relationship with their community. 

As we develop this toolkit – we’re aware that so many churches already have a wealth of experience that others could benefit from. 

If you’d like to share your knowledge and help us shape the toolkit, please get in touch

We’re looking for church leaders, community activists, social entrepreneurs, civic influencers, charity leaders and others who want to help shape tools that will empower churches the length and breadth of the country to transform their communities.”

To get involved, please email me and I’ll put you in touch with your local Cinnamon Advisor.