Under a church-wide organisation entitled Love Southend, Christians were again taking their message out of the churches and into the community. For four days the teams were running free fun days in local parks, free kids clubs in local churches, even free valet servicing, as well as helping to clear up alleys in some parts of Southchurch and Shoebury.
The bright-green-clad volunteers were the next step in a campaign that has run for the past two years organised by the youth element of Love Southend, whose slogan is, “Showing God’s love throughout the borough of Southend”. Since 2005 there have been three other events similar to this one, each designed to show God’s love in a positive and real way, and this April’s event was a continuation in areas already focused on in the past.
One real benefit that came out of the week was found through the fun days. These, as well as providing free activities such as bouncy castles, Easter egg hunts, face-painting and water catapults, also boasted connections with the Community Support Officers. The PCSOs gave demonstrations of equipment and arrest techniques, and, in so doing, were meeting the local community in a non-threatening manner. The fun days also provided an excellent way for the public to meet local Christians, who were at the same time ready with prayer-request cards and more details about the local churches.
The teams all had stories to tell about their experiences. In particular, the team based in Cluny Square came across a group of teenagers who were reportedly known as ‘trouble-makers’. After asking why the team were there, the group decided to join in with the clearing effort and help the team.
Another account was told by a participant on the Woodgrange Drive Estate team. A parent had told him how impressed she was with the teams and how the children were so much better behaved after hanging around with the Christians from local churches.
We also ran holiday clubs based in local churches, giving parents a break every afternoon. The children joined in with activities based around the Easter story whilst the Mums were offered the opportunity to sit down with a cup of tea and be pampered.
Over on the Woodgrange Drive Estate a team was bringing the fun to the kids – relationships with children on the estate have already been in existence for a few years and the recent activities allowed the team to continue building on those rappors. Rounders and football were in abundance and each afternoon the team was offering to walk kids to nearby holiday clubs. By asking the parents for permission they were at the same time creating relationships with adults on the estate.
These Love Southend activites, instigated by the young people of local churches, see themesleves as long term involvement with the people of the local community, plans are currently being developed for the summer’s events. The relationships formed are expected to continue through future events. More information and updates can be found on the dedicated website www.lovesouthend.org/extreme
Article by Ros Butterworth