On Advent Sunday 2nd December, Christians from across Middlesbrough and surrounding areas will be gathering with the Archbishop of York to celebrate the launch of a significant new venture, called Together Middlesbrough.
In February 2012, over 100 people from local churches and Christian organisations came together for a conference called Bridging the Gap to share their concern about poverty in the Middlesbrough area. The sad reality is that 15 out of the 19 Church of England parishes in Middlesbrough deanery are ranked in the bottom 10% most deprived areas of Britain. In these communities up to 59% of children are living in poverty, up to 53% of families are headed by lone parents and in some parishes male life expectancy is as low as 68 years — 20 years less than in the most affluent communities in England. These are not the small, localised pockets of deprivation found within nearly all parishes, but rather whole communities blighted by the interrelated problems of income poverty, poor health, low skills and family breakdown. These statistics can feel overwhelming, and yet we know there are Christians actively responding to meet some of these needs. Those attending the Bridging the Gap event were inspired by coming together, and asked for the confer- ence to be the beginning of something where Churches and Christian projects can work together to tackle poverty in the Middlesbrough area.
Since then, the Bridging the Gap group has been working hard in response to this feedback and we are delighted to be launching Together Middlesbrough, a Joint Venture project supported by the Church Urban Fund. The project will provide support and resources to Churches and Christians from the whole spectrum of church traditions, seeking to address poverty in Middlesbrough and surround- ing areas where deprivation is a pressing concern. Christ calls us to respond to the needs of our neighbours, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to befriend the lonely, to visit the prisoner, to care for the sick: in serving others we are serving him. Together Middlesbrough is a practical Christian re- sponse to local need. By coming together, we can support, resource and encourage one another to make a significant difference in our communities. The launch service will take place at 2pm, at St Barnabas’ Church, Linthorpe. At the ser- vice there will be more details about how Together Middles- brough will work. Everyone is welcome.