Church and Community Transformation process launched in Amman, Jordan

7 April 2024

Facilitators in Jordan, Amman, during a training on Church and Community Transformation

This past month marked the culmination of almost four years of work in the Diocese of Jerusalem as the Church and Community Transformation (CCT) process was launched at St. Paul’s, Ashrafiyeh in Amman, Jordan, in partnership with Tearfund, led by Diane Holt from Northern Ireland, and Dani El-Tayyar from Lebanon, with core support from Joel Kelling, Anglican Alliance Middle East Facilitator.

The process to contextualise the CCT materials from those used in British and Kenyan contexts to something more appropriate for the Middle Eastern Christian experience had faced several challenges, beginning online in Zoom sessions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A group of pastors and lay people from 4 parishes in the Diocese (Nazareth, Nablus, Ashrafiyeh and Husn) had trained and travelled to Northern Ireland to understand and explore the way the process works. They learned how its application has helped churches to be changed within, amongst their congregation, and in the community around them, through the recognition of the gifts and assets already present within the church, the exploration of what the needs are in the places where the churches serve, and the development of responses to these challenges.

Within the region, a common challenge has been the cultural expectation of the Pastor being responsible for the almost all of the ministry within a parish, and there was both a hope and a desire that through the long term adoption of this process – to be known as Koumi Istaneeri (or Arise and Shine) in Arabic – that the growth in lay participation and leadership might grow.

In late 2022 a training of a group of facilitators from across the 4 parishes including young people – men and women – took place in Salt, Jordan. A launch process of celebration within each church was planned for November of 2023, which unfortunately had to be postponed in the aftermath of the attacks by Hamas in Israel, and the subsequent assault on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Military.

The process was able to reschedule for St. Paul’s Ashrafiyeh at least, though the launch will have to wait in the other contexts. In the run up to the launch all of the contextualised materials had been translated into Arabic, and the introductory Bible studies run in the parish – through the regular ministry of Sunday School, Bible Study and Women’s Group.

Before the launch during the main Sunday service, the existing group of Facilitators reconvened and brought in new participants to get to grips with the newly completed resources (the Stop and Look stages), across the Friday and Saturday of the weekend. In all a group of 14 people were trained, including teenagers; and people from Iraq and Egypt in addition to Jordan, reflecting the diverse make-up of the congregation. This was an opportunity to go deeper into the details of the first two stages of implementation in the parish, as we worked through the exercises together.

During the Sunday service, the group performed a dramatic version of the feeding of the 5,000, imagining the situation had the young boy already eaten his bread and fish – which was both funny and poignant, reminding us of the abundance of resources we do have, despite living in challenging situations. As a community we made offerings of the gifts we have been given by God, written on cut out figures of people, and collected on the offertory plate. Members of the congregation were invited to share their experiences of volunteering or participating in the activities of the church – from the community kitchen, to art classes and English lessons. It was a wonderful celebration of the life that the church already shares within itself, and a hope for what it might provide to the community beyond its walls into the future. After the service, the group enjoyed a traditional (and generous!) Arabic breakfast together.

In a wonderfully providential piece of timing, a colleague from Tearfund UK was visiting Jordan and was able to film interviews with Rev’d George Al-Kopti about the process so far. The next steps of the process are already under way, with the first meeting of the parish to engage in the CCT process in detail taking place on the evening of the 29th February, with sessions planned through the next three months. In the meantime, Joel Kelling, Anglican Alliance Middle East Facilitator, will be working with Dani, Diane and the parish on the next stage of contextualisation (Listen and Walk) and supporting the facilitators in their work, as they take on more responsibility as lay leaders in the parish. The group hopes that the process will, in time, be taught and engaged with in other parishes of the Diocese of Jerusalem, or perhaps other denominations in the region.

The Anglican Alliance supports shared learning in Church and Community Transformation across the Communion, in strategic partnership with Tearfund. Asset Based Church and Community Transformation is a family of approaches that encourage churches to work in and with communities to see poverty reduced holistically and sustainably – to bring life in all its fullness.

Asset based approaches take as their starting point the God-given gifts, skills, experience and resources already present in a community. This is where communities are the agents of their own change. Together, communities look at both their challenges and their assets (capabilities, resources, skills and experience). Together, communities decide on their priorities for change, come up with project ideas and plans and put them into practice using the community’s assets – often without outside help or funding. This assets-based approach is far more empowering and sustainable. Asset-based approaches to church and community transformation have been adopted and contextualised in many Anglican provinces and are increasingly being included within the curriculum of theological education.

Please join us in praying for this process of Church and Community Transformation to continue to take root and bear fruit in churches and communities across the world.

The photo below shows the facilitators from Ashrafiyeh in Jordan with Diane and Dani.