I am excited to share that I have a new job. In January, I will be joining Hope into Action as their new Chief Executive.
I have loved my work over the last 4 years, advising on how churches and faith groups respond to homelessness in the government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative. This period has seen a significant shift in how faith-based work is viewed by central and local government.
In the turbulence of the pandemic, the churches and faith groups stepped up in an incredible way. Kathy Mohan, CEO of the Christian network Housing Justice, received an OBE in recognition of their member’s work during covid and the Everyone In initiative.
Faith-based work has continued to innovate and develop new approaches. In recent years, there has been a positive shift of emphasis from the approaches on the left of this spectrum to ones on the right:
Hope into Action, started by Ed Walker just 12 years ago, is a great example. He had returned from working abroad with Tearfund and was deeply concerned by the social needs he saw in his local city of Peterborough.
Using their own money from an inheritance, he and his wife Rachel purchased a property and used it to house people who were homeless. Ed wrote up his story up in a book The House that Love Built.
Their willingness to use their own money is deeply inspiring – its an example of the kind of radical faith that changes things. From this start, HiA grew and they now house over 350 people.
Ed developed HiA’s approach as a response to his view of systems and organisational structures which don’t serve people’s real needs:
‘I saw, as I looked at the hostel system, a focus on beds rather than homes. I noticed the high rents taken to cover the overheads of large organisations made finding employment difficult and could lead to people being stuck in hostels where it was hard to engage in positive, enriching relationships.’
It was great to see Ed’s work through HiA also acknowledged and him being awarded an MBE this summer.
I want to highlight three elements I particularly admire about HiA and why I am excited to be joining them:
1. Their focus on empowerment
Many churches seek to help people but (as regular G+T readers will know) I am concerned about forms of help which don’t empower people’s strengths. In the enthusiasm for social action, we have to remember that positive change rarely comes from one-way exchanges where benevolence is dished out to passive recipients. People are not transformed simply by what they receive, but from what they contribute to and participate in.
HiA’s support staff are called Empowerment Workers and they emphasise help which is mutual, relational and which develops people’s strengths. They intentionally set rents at levels which help people work and offer support to assist people into jobs.
I find it fascinating how often Jesus says to those he has healed and transformed ‘Your faith has healed you’. One of the surest signs of God’s kingdom is when people are empowered to find life in all its fulness.
2. Their confident Christian identity
The faith which develops social action is sometimes seen like a ‘starter motor’. It may have catalysed the work but then often just recedes to the margins. In many Christian charities, the spiritual basis can be relegated to something ‘the trustees care about’ or which is pragmatically useful to lever donations.
I have seen countless examples where faith has essentially been dis-integrated from the any relevance to the frontline work.
But through their partnerships with churches and in their culture, HiA place the Christian faith front and centre. There is confident commitment to explicitly root their compassionate action in their faith in Jesus.
This kind of faith excites and challenges me. It reminds me of what my friend, Baptist Minister Steve Latham, once wrote:
‘We need the real deal, instead of the ‘decaffeinated religion’ of postmodern liberal tolerance’
3. Their vision and ambition to grow
Lastly, HiA have both vision and ambition to grow. They have attracted millions of pounds of investment and uniquely combine this financial capital with the social capital provided by local churches. Their model has won awards from The Guardian, Homeless Link and the Centre for Social Justice. Their vision is:
‘Every church lovingly creating a home for the homeless’
I am both excited and humbled to be given this job with HiA and I can’t wait to get started.
10 thoughts on “Faith which puts Hope into Action”
Hi Jon. This sounds like a great opportunity to use your gifts and experience in a really appropriate environment. Wishing you every blessing for the next chapter.
Thanks Val – much appreciated. Hope you are well!
All good here in Hertfordshire, thanks Jon. Encouraging this congregation to reflect on some of these important lessons about empowerment.
Amen! All the best!
Congratulations Jon. We really appreciated your input into Church on the Bus in Chesterfield/Matlock this year and have no doubt that you will lead HiA in a way that honours the Lord.
Thanks Ian – that’s kind of you to say that and I am glad it was helpful.
I am really pleased for you Jon.
Hope in Action looks a perfect fit with Grace and Truth.
And you will bring a wealth of experience to this new opportunity.
thanks Jon – you have always been so encouraging and supportive to me in the various jobs I have done over the last 22 years!
Great news Jon. Every blessing.