Reaching out with hope for all
New Hope Baptist Church in Coseley launches The Hope Project, an ambitious well-being initiative for the community
‘The message is very simple…,’ says Paul Westwood to an audience packed with church members, local police, teachers and other community stakeholders. ‘Hope for all.’
Paul leads New Hope Baptist Church in Coseley in the West Midlands, and much hard work, planning and funding led the church to gather these representatives for the launch of its initiative The Hope Project last Wednesday evening (13 June).
The Hope Project is a programme designed to positively impact the well-being of vulnerable people of all ages in the community. There are three distinctive parts:
Living Life to the Full – a life skills course to support people with anxiety and low mood which can often lead to depression
Music Moves – a once weekly, 12 week music based course aimed at 11-17 year olds who may be introverted, unsociable or anxious
Beauty for Ashes – a programme designed to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence
In introducing the project, Paul explained that the motivation is to 'play a small part in bringing some hope back to the community'.
‘The world doesn’t seem to be a good place at times,’ he said. ‘We describe ourselves as a Christian country, yet the church and community seem so far apart.
‘We decided we would be best served if we got out into our community.’
However, although motivated by faith, there was no agenda of ‘back-door evangelism’, Paul told the audience. The church was simply following Jesus’ example and instruction of taking care of the needy and downtrodden.
‘We want to help and encourage,' Paul said. 'These are programmes for the anxious and depressed, that build up youngsters who are maybe on the wrong road, that encourage people to become who they are meant to be.
‘We seek to engage with everyone, and there is no agenda other than to reach out with hope.’
The Hope Project has been supported financially by the Heart of England Baptist Association, whose team leader Adrian Argile attended the launch. Thanking the role HEBA played in getting the project up and running, Paul said, ‘When I first spoke to Adrian he caught the vision straight away, so I want to thank all that HEBA have done. Their funding helped us get started.’
Adrian said he was ‘thrilled’ that the Hope Project has come into being, and noted the trust the community has placed in the church.
‘The church are seeking to offer support to a range of people through three projects, while at the same time maintaining their Christian distinctive,’ he said.
‘They have the trust of many community bodies and it will be exciting to see how things develop into the future. As an Association, we are pleased to support New Hope Baptist Church in their ministry.’
Through the course of the evening the three programmes were unpacked in a little more detail.
Living Life to the Full
Living Life to the Full is an eight week course to help people deal with life on a day-to-day basis.
It will be run by New Hope’s fully trained volunteers. During the launch it was presented by Joanne Westwood, Paul’s wife, who worked as a nurse for 30 years, and Ruth Carter, a congregation member and another nurse.
Joanne explained that because of their background they had wanted to work with people who were struggling with day-to-day life and experiencing low mood, stress and depression. After much research, they discovered Living Life to the Full, which has been designed by Dr Chris Williams and Five Areas Ltd. There are two courses – one designed for everyone, another with an added 'God element'.
It’s a low intensity, very practical programme, that’s not here to replace what the local mental health team does, but complement it, Joanne continued.
‘We have successfully completed pilot courses and are confident that by self and professional referral, completing the course will make a real difference to the lives of those taking part.’
Music Moves is a tried and tested programme that’s been operating in some form for around 10 years.
It creatively uses music to bring youngsters who are struggling with bullying ‘or life in general’ into a new way of positively communicating with others. Those on the course are taught the basics of playing an instrument, reading music and how to put a song together. They then come together as a group to practise and eventually record a song. (The church has now built a recording studio in its building.) Alongside Paul, who plays guitar, Music Moves is led by Dan Healey (pictured), a professional musician and university lecturer, and church deacon.
They stressed the programme is not simply to teach or interest young people in music; it is primarily about getting them to communicate in new and creative ways.
‘We’ve seen start to find a new confidence. We see them start to laugh, to make new friends outside of school,’ said Paul.
‘We have seen youngsters’ lives transformed from introverted, unsociable, anxious people into confident positive individuals who have made new friends in the real world, well away from the social media sterile environment in which many of them live their lives.'
He added the programme has received positive endorsements from healthcare professionals, schools and West Midlands Police.
Beauty for Ashes
The final element of the Hope Project is Beauty for Ashes, a programme designed to meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence. It’s for those who have removed themselves from the relationship, but perhaps not sought any help from crisis teams or refuge.
As such, it could be for people who experienced the abuse many years ago.
‘We have found in our community a lot of women who have suffered abuse, who haven’t accessed refuges,’ said Joanne, who will lead the programme alongside fellow church member Davinda (pictured).
They explained Beauty for Ashes will provide provide an environment of mutual self help and support, concentrating on overcoming personal difficulties that are experienced as a result of the abuse. It is designed to help both emotionally and practically.
‘A quarter of women have suffered abuse,’ said Davinda.
‘Our aim is that women will feel equipped to lead improved independent lives, building their self esteem, self determination and empowerment.’
The church will work with refuges and take referrals for the programme, which will be launched fully in the summer of 2019.
Paul would value prayer from the wider Baptist family as the Hope Project launches - please pray that:
the church would find ways to continue to reach our communities with Jesus message of hope, uncompromising with the Gospel and yet finding a way through suspicion of our agenda as people of faith. ('I want to explore what God is clearly doing in our community in ways that are innovative and original, holding onto our core Christian values in a transparent way, showing people the love of Christ wherever we can,' Paul says)
that God will bring the church volunteers who have courage and expectancy that God, through them, can change the world, one person at a time.