Conducting the research served to further strengthen the links between the Christian community and local government, businesses, and other agencies working in Whitley.
A bit about Whitley: (Taken from SYCs research report into the needs of the youth and community of Whitley.)
Whitley, south Reading is a large suburban council estate that was first imagined by Reading Borough Council in 1919, but did not get off the ground until 1929 when they purchased 41 hectares from the Whitley Park Estate.
Whitley as an area has a mixed history; it formed part of the Whitley Park Manor, which for around 400 years was granted to Reading Abbey until the dissolution in the 1500s. Part of Whitley became a dumping ground for victims of the plague in the 1300s where those infected were removed to either die or revive. In 1867 Manor Farm in Whitley was purchased by the Reading Corporation for the new sewage works for the town, and in the 1930s it became the first council estate built in Reading primarily for the rehousing of slum dwellers from the town.
Up until the 1970s manufacturing was the backbone of Reading economically, and for the residents of Whitley it was the main source of employment. But increasingly manufacturing stopped, downsized, or moved. Within a matter of years the financial services, retail, education, IT and computing became the heart of the economy. With skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled manual workers making up almost half of the population of Whitley many of the new opportunities were outside of their qualifications and experience.
There is a strong heritage of resilience against the odds that the people who have lived in Whitley have displayed down the centuries in order to find life and make a living. The ‘Honour Whitley’ initiative started by the South Reading churches is a much needed re-emphasis of the Whitley story; there is much to be honoured in the people of this community.
A move to Whitley
In 2013 Fusion International’s UK team (now called Shift Youth + Community (SYC)) were invited by this group of church leaders to move to Whitley and help them take their local mission to the next level, as well as start investing in reaching the young people of the community.
Whitley has undergone significant positive change over the last 15 years which could not have come about without the consistent prayers of local Christians. The attitude of service that the churches have towards their community is felt and appreciated. The annual South Reading Churches’ Fun Day as a public celebration of the community has contributed significantly to the credibility that the Christian community has in the community. That credibility has opened the door for Christians to legitimately serve, be and bring a blessing in diverse settings in Whitley. The two strategies will help focus the Christian community’s activities in the area for greater effectiveness and benefit for the community.