New Year's update 2017: Looking back and looking forward

By Simon Barrow
January 1, 2017

Greetings and very best wishes to all Ekklesia's friends, associates and collaborators for 2017. With huge challenges lying ahead in Britain and beyond, we look forward to continuing to work with you in promoting transformational ideas for social change, engaging key public policy debates, promoting creative peacemaking, and especially looking at how beliefs and ethics (including the Christian ones which shape our commitments) can play a role in reorienting our politics towards a better world. 

2016 has been a year of considerable change for Ekklesia, and 2017 will be a time of continuing transition. We launched our new publishing imprint with four titles (one on responses to the housing crisis, two on the faith and sexuality debate, and one on the new politics in Scotland). We began our high profile 'Creative Conversations' public meeting series with Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. We published the first of three keynote reports on replacing Employment and Support Allowance / Work Capability Assesssment for disabled and sick people. We produced three reports on beliefs, values and the European Referendum debate. We began a new initative on peace chaplaincy.  We cooperated with the Centre for Welfare Reform on 'Changing direction: an open letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions', signed by prominent Christian leaders. We had our largest ever presence at the Greenbelt Festival. And we ended the year involved with an important and successful campaign to back the second stage of an important Parliamentary Bill seeking UK Government ratification of the international Istanbul Convention on ending violence against women and domestic violence. 

Over the past year we have said 'hello' and 'goodbye' to a number of important people in Ekklesia's work. We were very sorry to lose our chief operating officer, Virginia Moffatt, and our administrator, Henrietta Cullinan. Both did a great deal of work and we wish them all the best for the future. Virginia continues to be an Ekklesia associate. Unfortunately we are not able to replace those part-time posts at present. We also said farewell to our founder and co-director, Jonathan Bartley, who has moved on to become co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. He has been a key and catalytic figure for Ekklesia and we will miss him. 

Joining us (on a non-contract basis) has been Bob Carling, our publishing and production manager, and Trish O'Neil, who is helping with bookeeping and financial management. The regular work of Ekklesia is now down to myself and to Jill Segger, our associate director and editor, who has done an amazing job in sustaining us – along with dedicated voluntary associates, not least Bernadette Meaden, Savi Hensman and Harry Hagopian. Thanks also to our partners at Bloomsbury for their hugely important support (meeting, event and office facilities), to our Partners for their financial support, and to our board (especially Vaughan Jones, Michael Marten and Kate Guthrie).  

In 2017 we are looking to consolidate our work on welfare and disability, extend our publishing programme, continue with 'Creative Conversations', further our peace chaplaincy project, make positive proposals for ethics and politics in a post-truth environment, examine further the changing role of belief in public life, and strengthen partnerships for social change in some imaginative and impactful ways.

None of this work, plus the regular news and comment we publish, our expanding social media role and interventions in regional and national media, would be possible without our supporters. That includes the second stage of our website development, which will move to a third stage this year. We thank you most sincerely. Over the past few years we have been seeking to expand and develop the work of Ekklesia and build an organisational base for what, in the past has mostly been a voluntary initiative with freelance staff support.

Undoubtedly, we have moved forward considerably, not least with the support of the Andrews Charitable Trust since 2014. Regretably, that support ended this past quarter, and we now face a major financial challenge moving forward. Over the past three months I have been exploring a range of possibilities for Ekklesia's continuing future and will be reporting further on that shortly. In the meantime, though we have not made a formal Christmas appeal this year, further contributions to our work would be hugely appreciated. You can do so directly to our bank account no. 42525527, sort code 60-20-39. 

We look forward to your continued interest, support and involvement in 2017.

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© Simon Barrow is Director of Ekklesia. (You can contact him at simonbarrowuk@gmail.com)

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