PCAN Preston Christian Action Network




Preston Christian Action Network is an emerging network of churches and Christian social action projects in the city.

Since the summer of 2010 PCAN has been supported financially by the Church Urban Fund and working in close partnership with Methodist Action. We are grateful to these organizations and also to network members and supporters in the churches and community projects of Preston and South Ribble without whom very little could have been achieved..

The context of the year has been a difficult one – an age of austerity during which public services and many VCFS organizations have seen funding cuts and staff redundancies. There has been much talk of the Big Society, in which we have taken part, most obviously in the March conference organized by the Diocese of Blackburn. There are growing needs, and opportunities for Christians to get involved in meeting local needs, typically through volunteering, and with more people out of work or taking early retirement there may be more volunteers available. However, even voluntary services require resources if they are to be delivered effectively. Yet the struggles and burdens of PCAN  as an organization, and others in the sector are as nothing compared with the pressure on families and individuals directly encountering poverty,  facing unemployment,  coping on reduced benefits,  and living in urban priority areas where services have been withdrawn. The summer “riots” which for the most part passed Preston by reminded us that all is not well with the state of our society.  

Meetings and Governance

Throughout the year Greg Smith was paid by the Church Urban Fund  on a half time basis to service and animate the Network. We met as a full network half a dozen times in the course of the year, at a variety of local churches, usually over lunch, and often with a theme or visiting speaker as well as covering reports on activities and planning strategically. Over the course of the year we set up and commissioned a number of sub groups to deliver specific pieces of action. In January we also held an exploratory networking meeting with church leaders and activists in Leyland, though we concluded that the existing Churches Together in Leyland network was an adequate vehicle to carry forward Christian social action in the town, with PCAN happy to stay in the background and offer support where appropriate.

The aim of CUF which was discussed and developed in PCAN network meetings was to establish a Joint Venture Company at the Lancashire wide  / Diocesan level to oversee and deliver support and funding to social action / urban mission activities. The model that has developed and is at the end of the year almost ready to launch is for this JVC to be established as a formal partnership involving CUF, the Diocese of Blackburn and the Methodist District. Some powers will be devolved to three local steering groups in Costal, Central, and Pennine Lancashire with PCAN taking this role in Central Lancs. It is hoped early in 2012, to be able to reconstitute PCAN with elected officers, and for the JVC to employ a part time development worker closely linked to PCAN.

Information Service – Web site etc.

One key function of PCAN is as an information and resource sharing network. Greg Smith continues to manage and update the website set up in 2010, www.pcan.org.uk  and the associated blog http://prestonchristianactionnetwork.blogspot.com/  where over 220 postings were made in the course of the year. There is also an associated facebook page http://www.facebook.com/groups/pcanfbk/   and open group with 29 members who all are able to post items and comments pcanfbk@groups.facebook.com . In addition to this the full email list now includes over 50 people, who all receive the most significant information about meetings and activities. Below the radar there are several topic related email groups and forwarding of information to individuals who are thought to have particular interests or involvements in specialist issues. In the first half of the year we also produced, printed and distributed a volunteering opportunities bulletin, but this has fallen into abeyance as the cost of printing and distribution is felt to outweigh its effect in recruiting volunteers.

Homelessness work

In autumn 2010 one of PCAN’s early meetings identified an immediate need in terms of winter provision for homeless and vulnerable people on the streets of Preston. Working closely with the Preston Homeless Forum network, we played a part in developing the Winter Watch emergency cold weather shelter provision and the implementation of the city’s rough sleeping strategy. Methodist Action provided some funding to employ Phil Moore as a volunteer co-ordinator and Central Methodist Church offered it’s coffee bar facilities as a venue for weekly drop in sessions where free food, signposting to homelessness services and friendship could be offered to those in need. On occasions when the facilities at the Methodist Church have not been available first St Wilfrids and then St Georges church have made their buildings available. The drop in sessions run on Sunday and Monday evenings thus ensuring that together with similar facilities at the Foxton Centre, at St Wilfrids (run by the Freedom Centre) and the Salvation Army there is now a drop in with free or cheap food available every day of the week. In the first full year of operation since opening in December 2010 the drop ins at Central Methodist Church have provided 104 sessions with a team ov over 50 volunteers who have worked 2781 hours in 927 shifts. The footfall of guests has reached 2660 most of whom return on a regular basis. We know that the signposting to services has helped a considerable number of people to find temporary  or more permanent accommodation.  We were also able to support and advise  a group from Leyland Churches who are intending to open a weekly drop in centre for homeless and vulnerable people.

The Community Food Bank

With increasing poverty we became aware that more households were finding it hard to find basic food at times of financial crisis. After some initial consultation and research, and investigating the growth of food bank projects across the country PCAN decided to put some effort into supporting and developing the service provided at The Salvation Army. Methodist Action provided some funding to pay for the design and printing of a leaflet and poster, and took on the marketing and publicity role. As a result donations from church, other faith and community groups of non perishable foods increased, and following the harvest season and a “Soul Food” gospel concert event put on by the Onevoice community choir in September the cupboards are bulging and the Salvation Army is aiming to build an additional storage room. As the demand rises food does not stay in the store very long. Although the service is limited to one food parcel per household per month service usage has risen from a baseline of 30 parcels per month in September 2010 to over 120 per month in November 2011.  In addition PCAN has been instrumental in securing a grant of £2500 from the local Daniels & Houghton’s charity to support the restocking of the foodbank over the Christmas period.


Listening Skills Training

Conversations within the PCAN network between Hazel Sewell of the Cedar House Counselling centre, Rev. Sue Griffiths of Central Methodist Church and others identified the importance of developing listening skills among volunteers and church members for use in drop ins, community activities and local congregations. As a result we formed a sub group and offered two events. An Introductory Listening Skills evening in July at Fulwood Methodist Church was attended by 45 people from a wide range of Preston churches. This was followed up with a training day in November attended by around 20 people at a break even cost of £15 per head. The day took place at Fulwood Free Methodist church and was facilitated by the Free Methodist Counseling team. Positive feedback from both events, and a mailing list and network based on the participants means that we are planning in 2012 to offer some training in more sustained befriending, and in “Becoming a Listening Church”.

Initiatives on Unemployment

Conversations within PCAN and some background research identified the growing importance of the employment issue and opportunities for churches to develop ministries in this field. At our network meeting in July we welcomed a representative of Job Centre + and shared how work had been going on in a support course for unemployed people at Fulwood Free Methodist Church, and in an emerging Work Club at Kings Church Penwortham (Kingsfold Work club). We set up a sub group to pool ideas and resources and included INTACT, the community association in Ingol and Tanterton.  At the end of 2011 Kingsfold Work Club is up and running and showing signs of success, and a Work Club with a specialist emphasis on mental health issues is running at The Salvation Army. Plans are also well advanced for establishing a similar work club in St Matthews parish, and a second running of the FFMC support course.  

St Matthews Mission Acregate

In conversations in the network we have talked often about the needs of Preston’s “East End” the St Matthews, Fishwick and Ribbleton area where indices of deprivation and diversity are high, church presence is weak and community support services have been withdrawn following cutbacks in Neighbourhood Renewal funding. The Parish of the Risen lord which serves the area has a well located mission hall, that is in need of renovation but already offers a community asset used by several local groups. The potential for development is excellent and Greg Smith has been working with the vicar Rev. Peter Nunn, the city council, Fusion Youth and Community and others to move things forward.. An application for a £5k CUF mustard seed grant has been submitted with a view to carrying out a 6 month feasibility study and pilot project, and a startup grant to set up a Work Club in the building is about to be sent off. Other groupings are planning a consultation and fund gathering strategy to enable capital to be raised to improve the building (according to plans drawn up by an architect on a pro bono basis), for use by the community, with an emphasis on youth and employment issues. A worship space would be retained and the possibility of beginning some fresh expression of the church in the neighbourhood is part of the vision that is emerging.

Redeeming our Communities

In the autumn of 2011 we were approached by Redeeming our Communities who have secured a partnership with the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to engage with churches in delivering youth and community work projects on the ROC youth café model. The fire service are leading on convening a series of conversations and network meetings to identify specific needs and ways of meeting them. In the second meeting at Calvary Church in Lostock Hall, members of the PCAN network were able to show the statutory bodies the extent of existing Christian youth work, which is well networked through Preston Youth for Christ, Fusion Youth and Community and the PR festival group based at City Church. It seems likely in 2012 that significant pieces of work will emerge, initially around Lostock Hall, and St Matthews in Preston’s East End.


At our October meeting we welcomed Dawn Lonsdale of Unlock who introduced their method of small group Christian learning for adults in a non-book culture. Dawn also led an evening session aimed at home group and youth leaders in local churches. Unlock are looking for opportunities to partner with local churches to employ part time local development workers. Preston remains a possible location for such an initiative. However, this can only take off if we can identify a small group, including some church leaders who will be really enthusiastic to make things happen.

Other networking initiatives…

As a diverse network PCAN inevitable has many other “irons in the fire” and network members are running significant local projects and ministries within their own churches.

In 2011 we note;

Sterling work by friends and network associates in:

  1. the ongoing work of the Foxton Centre
  2. Methodist Action in the Fox Street Community and much else
  3. The Catholic Diocesan Peace and Justice networks
  4. Preston and South Ribble street Pastors (Greg delivered training session on Homelessness)
  5. The PR Festival/ PYFC. / Fusion YAC Christian youth work consortium
  6. Christians Against Poverty debt counselling and money management courses.
  7. Many local churches in their day to day pastoral work and social action

We were involved in

  1. Preston Community Network.. convene a VCFS Children’s trust working group which in November put on “ We can do it”  story sharing event in which PCAN was a co sponsor and workshop facilitator.
  2. Preston Faith Forum co-ordinated Inter faith Week in which PCAN presented an understanding of the Christian approach to poverty.

Greg Smith and others attended


  1. Two day conferences of Church urban Fund  in London
  2. A day conference in London of the Christian Child Care Forum
  3. A day event in Leeds with Dave Andrews run by Community Mission
  4. Big Society day Conferences in Preston run by the Diocese, and by community North West.
  5. Annual conference of ARVAC (Association of research in the Voluntary and community sector) in Manchester
  6. An Academic workshop in Antwerp on Religion and volunteering
  7. Various Greenbelt Festival seminars
  8. Meetings of Hope Together, Preston Deanery Chapter and City Centre Church Leaders
  9. Launch meeting of  Preston Environmental forum …
  10. Scripture Union Lancashire Roadshow
  11. Unlock Council

Forthcoming commitments in 2012 include…

  1. Preston City Council has a proposal for a Social Forum working on the Fairness Agenda.. including issues of Living wage and  Money Lending and debt initiatives
  2. Greg will be attending the EA’s National Gather Conference Swanwick February where unity groups from towns and cities across the UK will meet to compare notes.
  3. Guild Churches Group and their Lent  Programme will include an opportunity to present the work of PCAN
  4. An invitation to speak at 2 RC churches on Unemployment Sunday (Feb 19th)
  5. Poverty and Homelessness Week events planned for last week of January- 1st weekend Feb.
  6. Various Hope together and Guild initiatives throughout 2012
  7. Possibility of some Good Childhood Conversations..
Ecclesiastical Insurance and The Children Society are working together on the exciting initiative of providing grants for local community projects from Good Childhood Conversations. These are community events that bring adults together to discuss the issues young people face in their communities.  


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