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'Every Place of Worship a Place of Hope'

'Every Place of Worship a Place of Hope'

Monday October 7

Ruth Harvey, director of the reconciliation charity Place for Hope, celebrates its tenth anniversary and looks to the future


‘THE meaning of hope’ said Thomas Merton, is ‘to trust in the ultimate goodness of creation.’

We live in times of intense and immense change in society, in politics, in care for our planet. And in the lives of our churches. How we navigate this change together will be the mark of our hope, and of our wisdom.

Rooted in the real needs of congregations working through change and conflict, and launched with support from the Guild and the Ministries Council in 2009, Place for Hope celebrates its tenth anniversary this November.

Becoming an independent charity in 2015, the vision of Place for Hope is rooted in a Gospel of reconciliation: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5: 17 – 18.

We remain committed to:

Walking Towards Tricky Conversations

One of the first challenges when facing change is finding the courage to reach out for help. One minister recently told us: "The Place for Hope process undoubtedly helped me. It’s never an easy thing to do but from the moment I lifted the phone you made it feel easy."

Another person who had the courage to ask for help was Stewart Weaver, a minister in Portobello, who shared this with us:

“On Sunday September 1 2019, Portobello and Joppa Parish Church had one service, rather than two. That service was a celebration of five years worshipping as a new and united congregation. This event was possible, in many respects, because of Place for Hope. 

“Five years ago people from Portobello Old Parish, St. James’ and St. Philip’s processed into the worship space carrying items from their constituent congregational lives: communion goblets, crosses, baptismal bowls, Bibles. These were laid upon the communion table not just as symbols of our new life together but as a reminder of the gifts of grace granted to us by God. 

“The three churches in Portobello and Joppa began working with Place for Hope in 2012, when the idea of a three-way union was mooted. Place for Hope took the time to build up relationships with the ministers, the smaller group working to make the union happen, the sessions and the congregations. Building up trust takes time and patience, insight and awareness, and a formidable array of skills. Such skills are not always readily visible in their presence, but their absence is too often palpable in heated exchanges. 

“With time and with trust came honesty. It took many months before someone candidly said, ‘I am frightened of losing my building’. It takes courage to apologise after a sharp comment uttered in frustration and it takes grace to accept and move on in forgiveness. 

“With insightful, gentle, persistent and sometimes challenging questions and probes, those fears, those hopes, those frustrations were surfaced. In relationships of understanding and trust, these moments frequently saw us move to another level. We knew (intuited) when it was time to discuss money and ministers and buildings and worship spaces. Had we leapt into such discussions alone or perhaps too precipitously, sparks may have flown. 

“We were not alone in this process. Change and conflict can be so isolating for a member of the congregation, an elder or a minister. Place for Hope offered us a companion who walked alongside us, reminding us of the bigger world outside our pressurised bubble. Such wisdom, gained through experience, brought a healing perspective which allowed forward movement. 

“In the balance and rhythm of the life of faith we can discern the guiding presence of God. That presence brings life and hope. We often need help to get to that place of hope and how grateful we are in Portobello that we had companions on the journey, that we worked with Place for Hope.”

Supporting Scotland’s Congregations

Since 2009 Place for Hope has trained 53 practitioners, representing six denominations, with the majority being members of the Church of Scotland. We believe we must model the unity in diversity that we encourage in others. This diversity also means very practically that between us and our Trustee group, we bring insights from a range of church backgrounds.

Our practitioners work in pairs, helping design robust processes for facilitating change.  They are currently working in 32 locations, focussing on issues including bullying, buildings closure, managing challenging behaviour in meetings and planning for systemic change across presbyteries.

Our six-day training, accredited by Scottish Mediation, focusses on personal development, facilitation skills, mediation tools, and an understanding of faith-based conflict. Practitioners also agree to supervision and ongoing training, thus underpinning our work with a robust quality of practice.

Of our training one Practitioner says: “The mediation training gave me tools to help me handle conflict, disagreement and difficult relationships in a better way in my own life and ministry as well as giving me the opportunity of helping others facing similar tensions.”

As well as offering mediation, we facilitate large and small group conversations, design processes for change and transition, and offer coaching. We also have a range of one-day training programmes exploring the dynamics of conflict and how to respond; how to recognise bullying and harassment; and looking at what scripture says about conflict.

‘Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith’

Reaching our tenth anniversary this November, we are grateful to all who have played a part in bringing this ministry of reconciliation to life. We acknowledge the wisdom and skill present in our churches, and we give thanks for all those who quietly work for reconciliation in our churches and in the world. With partner organisations we are hosting a ‘Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith’. There will be cake! There will be a ceilidh, storytelling, workshops, inspirational input, weaving, labyrinths, worship and exhibition space.

We will be launching our ‘Reconciling Congregations’ programme at the Gathering – a programme of support, accompaniment and training offered to individual congregations, Presbyteries or leadership groups who want to explore the art of conflict transformation and reconciliation for the future. 

We have a vision that every place of worship is a ‘place for hope’ offering gospel-inspired wisdom and artful reconciliation within our churches and the wider community for the good of us all. In the midst of so much change, we continue to ‘trust in the ultimate goodness of creation.’


‘Gathering in Glasgow on Conflict and Faith’, Glasgow, Thursday October 31 – Saturday November 2 2019

‘Faith in Change and Conflict’, 6-day accredited training, Perth, January 14-16 and February 18-20 2020.

For more information visit www.placeforhope.org.uk To reach out for support, seek advice or join the peacemakers network call 07884 580 359 or email  natalie.barrett@placeforhope.org.uk