St Mary’s is one of the founding members of Waltham Forest Citizens, which is our local Citizens UK alliance of faith communities, schools, colleges and community groups in our borough of London.
Ten institutions – including St Mary’s and the Parish of Walthamstow, Chingford Parish Church, Leyton Sixth Form College and Waltham Forest Islamic Association to name just a handful – listen to each other and to our community about the things people are concerned about. Using the principles of community organising, we act to win changes on the issues we care about, seeking the Common Good and holding our political leaders to account while working with them to make positive changes. Our diverse alliance represents nearly 15,000 people – a powerful voice in our community.
Community organising is issues-based, not partisan; through it, we learn how to be engaged citizens and how to win change for the good of all (as Christians, we see this as fulfilling the command to love our neighbours). Waltham Forest Citizens has led on two of the most important issues locally: increasing the amount of affordable housing and reducing youth violence and anti-social behaviour.
In Spring 2018, we helped organise a Citizens’ Accountability Assembly in Walthamstow Village with over 600 people in attendance – the largest Citizens’ assembly in London; there, the two candidates for leader of the Council – Cllr Siggers and Cllr Coghill – made public commitments to key requests in our manifesto around truly affordable housing and youth provision. Some of these promises Cllr Coghill the Council are beginning to deliver on; we continue to hold them to account on others.
In Autumn 2018, St Mary’s launched a local campaign to make Walthamstow Village a Living Wage Zone, with at least half of all employers paying the real London Living Wage, which is significantly above the government minimum wage, and which has been shown to lift people out of poverty while improving employee retention and productivity. We’ve accredited several businesses through the Living Wage Foundation and are hoping to accredit many more in the months and years to come.
If you are interested in getting involved in our Citizens’ work – or in attending free two-day or six-day training in community organising – please get in touch with Revd Vanessa Conant (email@example.com).