An Inner City Challenge
These are changing times, and it is appropriate that we take time to consider where we are, and reflect on the work of Providence House, its principles, its purpose, its path.
The Foundation of the Work: ‘The Heart of the Matter’.
First, the foundation of the youth work at Providence House, indeed the whole of the work, is grounded in underlying Christian principles. Christian values, a Christian approach to the wholeness of life and of people underpin our vision. ‘The Heart of the Matter’ principles, on which the work is underpinned, have been eloquently expounded in other papers by Elizabeth Braund, the founder, and others, and the core aims are summarise in the foundation papers for the work of Providence House. Suffice it to say, that Christ and Christian values are central and foundational to all that we do. While acknowledging that those who contribute to the life of Providence House come from a variety of backgrounds, it is vital that all are able to acknowledge the core values that are in the very fabric of the work.
The second introductory point that must be made is that Providence House and East Shallowford are ‘Travelling Together’, with a shared past, a shared present and a shared future. This is not to say that there are not some differences in organisation and practical tasks, but that we are Travelling Together in the same direction, with the same principles and the same purpose.
Providence House and its Four distinctive works.
Providence House is an inner city Christian mission primarily serving the community in the Clapham Junction area, but given its strategic location with the opportunity for a wider ministry.
These are the fourfold ways in which we seek to fulfil our mission, although each interrelate to the other:
- Providence House is a Christian Mission, and although this infuses the other three functions, it is as a Christian Mission that we run a Sunday School, an adult bible class, prayer meetings, our regular Sunday First ministry, and other openly Christian teaching activities that we do from time to time, or will do in the future.
- Providence House is an open youth work, currently run in partnership with Wandsworth Council Youth Service, providing youth activities for young people aged 7 – 19 years, currently four nights a week, plus a youth football programme, holiday activities, etc. Youth work is fundamental to the work of Providence House, and will outlive any relationship with the local authority.
- Providence House works in partnership with East Shallowford Farm to run a programme of residential visits to the farm, catering for all ages, and with a variety of themed purposes, and to work alongside East Shallowford in the expression of the Heart of the Matter. This aspect of the work also embraces the other three.
- Providence House is a Community Centre where we hope that all ages and varied groups can find their place. This side of the work currently brings us into partnership with the Pupil Referral Unit, Catch 22 and the after school club, other agencies and networks, and regular contact with parents and visitors.
Trustees and Management Structure.
The Providence House Trust with its governing articles is the legal body that was set up to oversee the work in about 1963. At a later stage prior to the opening of the present building in 1970, a subsidiary Trust for Providence House Youth Club with its Committee was set up to manage the youth work and the main part of the building. Recently we have modernised our charity structure by incorporation. Discussion is in progress to strengthen the board of Trustees, and revisit the Trustee and Management arrangements in order to be fit for purpose to plan the way ahead.
Challenges for the Youth Work at Providence House
Providence House has had a profound effect on many young people and families over many years, and it is our hope that this continues for many more years. March 2010 marked the fortieth anniversary of the opening of this current building. The origins of this work derive from the pioneering work of Elizabeth Braund and Rosemary Bird in the exciting days in the old Providence chapel throughout the nineteen sixties; since then during the past forty years Providence House has been in the midst of many social changes, changes in housing, in the ethnicity of the local community, in affluence, in faith trends, and in youth culture. In 2013 we celebrated our 50th anniversary as an organisation with an amazing day. Our building still stands, and the work moves forward into another era of change around us.
The key principles that have always been more or less expressed over these years remain as distinctive and relevant as ever today.
- That Providence House is open to all and is not restricted to types, or targets, or known only for a particular activity;
- That Providence House has a family and community approach, bringing in people as people, across the ages and bringing diverse groups & races together, seeking to engender a sense of belonging;
- That at Providence House the work with young people is about development, about taking young people on to find their own identity, their own skills, their own place in this world – ‘new people for a new world’.
- That the youth work at Providence House is underpinned by an understanding of ‘The Heart of the Matter’, that there is a totality of the whole of life in God’s world; God is every part of His world, there is nothing we do untouched by His reach and concern. It is only in Him that we can answer the fundamental question, ‘who am I?’ This underpins all we should be doing.
- That integral to the work is the partnership with the Farm, Providence House & East Shallowford, Travelling Together, which together involves a working out of the above principles.
Some of the things that make our work distinctive, and that provide the strength for moving forward are these:
- Our work has a deep and long community heritage and high standing of goodwill;
- We have the strength of generational succession of children following parents at Providence House;
- We have long cultured a sense of identity at Providence, where people feel they belong, that they are part of the place;
- We have the travelling together with East Shallowford which on so many levels makes a big impact on people and their lives;
- Underlying all of the work is faith, not just faith in what we are doing, but faith in God whose place this is, and whose lead we need to follow
There are many challenges ahead and our task is to press on to find the right way forward. ‘With all this going for us, my friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourself into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.’ (St Paul)