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"The Kingdom of Heaven in a cul-de-sac"
Base Communities, Duffryn, Newport,
Wales UK

[09.03]

"We look at the communities that we are involved in and the problems are just overwhelming. Mass unemployment, homelessness, drug addicts. What can we do about all that? Itís too big, we canít solve the problems. If youíre not careful you finish up doing nothing at all, because itís all just too big."

Itís this type of thinking that David Sutton met, when he first moved to Duffryn

David was employed by the Church of Wales to start a church plant on the Duffryn council estate in Newport. According to a Save the Children report, 82% of children on the estate live in poor households. The estate is over 20 years old, but has never had itís own church. The local parish church was in a much more comfortable neighbourhood, with no real connections to the estate.

"Base Communities" are the idea that David came up with. They aim to break down the problems on the estate to a more manageable size.

"We work on the principle that our community is only working in a very tiny locality," David explains, "so we only ever look at the needs of that small area - itís not looking at the needs of the whole estate"

By this definition, a community might only be one street, or one cul-de-sac, perhaps 20-30 houses.

Each base community meets once a week to pray and study together, and to discuss the needs of that particular tiny community. There is a Christian ethos to each group, but itís open to anyone who wants to come along.

"What we say to people is that we respect people with other faiths, and that what weíre trying to do as a group is to create a positive change in our community. Part of doing this is looking at the teachings of Jesus together, and trying to find common ground there."

One of the things David has struggled with, in developing his ideas, is an evangelical theology that seemed purely focused on getting people "saved", but didnít actually seem to be too interested in community, or in the people themselves.

David felt that his role on the estate was to work to bring the Kingdom of Heaven, meaning transformed communities as well as lives. As a Church Army officer, and a Diocesan Evangelist, in the Diocese of Monmouth, he worked closely with Rowen William, then the new bishop of the area, in developing a new approach.

So far, there are 2 base communities in Duffryn. They focus on very specific, small-scale problems, and they try to find practical, achievable solutions to them. For example, one of the groups is set in a housing complex for elderly people. They look at problems such as loneliness, residents not always feeling well enough to do food shopping and not having anyone to do small DIY jobs for them.

About 20 people come along to this group, some because they need support, some because they want to be involved in supporting others. If the group canít solve a particular problem, they call upon the other base community, to share resources.

"The group is making a significant difference in a number of lives," says David, "and thatís my criteria for success".

The second base community has had more ups and downs. A number of people in the group come from outside the estate, which has unbalanced it. These are people who have come in to support David in his work.

"Maybe theyíve taken something away to their own communities, but itís not been so effective within this community."

David is not discouraged though. He has a number of people on the estate who are very keen to become involved with new base communities as they become established. The work so far has also provided the foundation for a worshipping community, who meet weekly in a community centre on the estate. Itís slow work, based on gradually building up relationships with people, but itís moving forwards.

 
 

The Base Communities website:
www.btinternet.com/~third.bass/ndcc-duffryn.html



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