Thought for the Week – I have a confession to make!

Claire Wright discusses the empowering impact of Citizens UK, an interfaith alliance of civil society organizations addressing collective issues through community organising.

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Church Window Mask

Invitation — Misa Campesina Nicaragüense

You are the God of the poor,
the human and simple God,
the God that sweats in the street,
the God with the weathered face.
That is why I speak to you
like my people speak to you,
because you are the labourer God,
the worker Christ.


This is the chorus to the Misa Campesina Nicaraguense that I came across recently at an Amos Trust reflection.  It was a reminder that whilst I live a comfortable life and go to a beautiful church, life for a lot of people is neither comfortable nor beautiful, but whether or not they realise it, God is very much there for them and their dreams of a better life.

When we ask what we can do to make a difference to their lives, we can feel powerless or that our individual actions may not go far enough.  Citizens UK brings people together, empowering local leaders and creating collective power to address issues that matter to us all.  It is interfaith, for people of all ages, and is an alliance of civil society organisations, such as schools and colleges, faith groups, charities and community groups.  Together our voice is louder and has more impact.

Which brings me my confession.  In October I went along to the Citizens UK London manifesto meeting along with Beatrice and Tchansia from the SJP congregation.  At the end of the session each organisation was asked to put down how many people they were going to bring along to the big London Mayoral Assembly on April 25th.  In a moment that I like to think of as inspired hope, I wrote down 20 for SJP.   Big citizens meetings are typically high energy, and the enthusiasm is infectious, but I’m normally very good at managing expectations.  This time was different, I think for a number of reasons:

  • As we approach the London Mayoral and General elections, I don’t know that there has ever been a more important time for our voice to be heard. This came out very strongly in the Cugoano What Next conversations we had at church recently.
  • The community organising process works. At the last Mayoral Assembly Sadiq Khan agreed to create 60,000 green jobs and this has been achieved.  The focus of West London citizens this year has been getting all 9 NHS Trusts in West London to be accredited as London Living Wage providers.  6 out of 9 are now accredited and It is estimated that the impact has been 1,500 workers getting a pay rise of about £2,000 a year.
  • The priorities agreed for the London manifesto are: Climate Justice, Housing and Homelessness, Migration and Refugees and the Living Wage and Living Hours.  These are all themes that I have heard members of the congregation talk passionately about at SJP.  What was particularly powerful about the manifesto meeting was hearing the asks for change being given by people who are living the reality of the problem.  It was a woman seeking asylum who spoke up in front of about 200 people about the need for free bus travel because getting her children to school was competing with food, energy, clothing etc.
  • Citizens UK is very much about enabling all people to find their own voice and agency, and developing leaders from within communities. It is genuinely inspiring to see people surprise themselves by speaking truth to power, and  for example, it will be people living in fuel poor homes in need of repair who will be giving their testimonies at the Housing asks launch on the 11 December 2023.  There is an opportunity for our IG group to help develop and be involved in the campaign for free bus travel for asylum seekers in London.

Citizens UK is not aligned to a political party, but uses proven community organising techniques that have their roots in the civil rights movement in the USA.  The community organising process involves identifying what people care strongly about in a community through 1-2-1 conversations, building relationships and networks strong enough to support the struggle for change, developing community leaders and mobilising people to take collective action and make a difference.  St James’s is a  founding member of Westminster Citizens.

I know how busy people at SJP are and I will admit that after the meeting was over I had second and third thoughts about having said we would bring 20 people along to the Mayoral Assembly on 25 April 2024.  However ‘speak our together’ is one of the aims of our three year strategy, and speaking out in numbers has an impact especially when it comes to the Assembly, so we would love to see you there!

If you would like more information and/or to be included in regular emails about forthcoming Citizens UK activities, please talk to Beatrice, Tchansia or me, or contact Tchansia at

Key dates coming up 2023

December 11th – 10.30 to 11.30 at City Hall

Launch of Citizens Housing/Climate Change asks for mayoral election, including action on rogue landlords and renewed commitments to repair and retrofit fuel poor homes.

Key dates coming up 2024

25th April 4pm to 5pm – ‘Unapologetically faithful in the public space’ – Bloomsbury Central Baptist church

Interfaith event followed by a walk to Central Methodist Hall

  • Bringing together all West London faith leaders to worship together and walk to the Accountability Assembly

25th April 6pm to 8pm London Mayoral Accountability Assembly (Central Methodist Hall)

3000 Citizens leaders from across London will be holding an assembly to challenge Sadiq Kahn and Susan Hall on Housing, Migration justice, Living Wage and Climate justice.

Citizens UK are also looking for people interested in helping build the campaign for free bus travel for asylum seekers, and would value a representative from SJP.