The vision for Tulloch NET came into being in 2004, three years before its official launch – and charitable status. Its Community Development Officer, Revd Richard Higginbottom, outlines Tulloch NET's development and future plans in north west Perth.
The aim has always been to develop a fresh expression of inclusive and indigenous church in Tulloch and for that church to be based on relational networking – not traditional ingathering.
We reach out to the Tulloch community which is an area of mixed social and private housing with a population of around 4,000. In partnership with several denominations and supported by Church of Scotland seed-funding and grants from various agencies, we have been working hard to build up relationships within the community before setting up any sort of worship centre.
Our ethos is to have an innovative, creative and fluid relational approach to social and spiritual needs in Tulloch, listening always to God and engaging in a sustainable way with the community, especially the disadvantaged. Tulloch is classed as an Area Based Initiative; this is a local authority designated area for re-generation and help with deprivation. We do this through social action, prayer, liaison, visiting, listening, occasional events/Sunday activities, projects and hospitality. On our promotional material we say that Tulloch NET is a Christian network offering practical help and spiritual support to the people of Tulloch.
After mission audit research in 2004/05, organised at the request of the local Church of Scotland parish minister, I felt called to pioneer a fresh expression in Tulloch in 2006 and received the necessary permissions to start a pilot project on secondment from my then CPAS employers. We recognise this is a 'long-haul' initiative – at the start of it all approximately 10 to 15 years were suggested for the establishment of this new expression of local church. So by 2020 we will be looking to see what's happened!
Starting with attempts at addressing perceived local needs through parenting seminars and partnerships with the local primary school and Council, we formed a team of volunteers and a small inter-denominational reference group. Some initial funding came from personal supporters and from the Church of Scotland, Baptist Union of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church (Diocese of St Andrews) are also our ministry partners – along with Crieff Baptist Church, Perth North Church of Scotland, Tulloch Worldwide Church of God and Perth Knox Free Church of Scotland.
Visiting local people, networking, experience and further research showed that local deprivation and social issues required a different approach which had to be long-term. A management group was formed, further funding was sought and eventually, I was appointed Community Development Officer at the end of 2008.
Ongoing networking and visiting is carried out by myself and an initial voluntary team of six (we now have 11), while traditional pastoral support is provided by the North Church – though bereavement care may sometimes form part of our brief, by arrangement.
We ended up initiating the Tulloch Lade environmental project in 2009 after local consultation, which had revealed the current neglected state of the Town Lade (an ancient man-made canal running through Tulloch) as a key social concern. We've been involved in all sorts of associated activities, including tree-planting, creating a community orchard and meadow, eco-exhibitions, wildlife habitat improvements and litter clearance.
Since 2007, we've also organised 'spiritual events' such as a Christmas carol service, a Songs of Praise and Christian stalls at school celebrations. These have had limited effect but our big breakthrough in 2011 has been to secure – in partnership with other Christian agencies – former shop premises as an incarnational base in Tulloch which we're developing as a community drop-in for local needy folk, including addicts. We opened in May and have since attracted an average of 20 visitors per week; a part-time Welcomer has now been appointed there. We have maintained regular local prayer-walking throughout our project history and a prayer box for specific prayer requests is kept in our Hub.
Our core virtues remain Relationship, PRAYER, Creativity, Humility, Commitment, Bridging the Secular/Sacred Divide, Restoration, and of course… Jesus. Creativity under God is not based on strategies, but depends on moves of God. Our project is all about Jesus and Kingdom: it involves patience and God's timing.
As far as our timescales are concerned, our mid-term goals include the appointment of a second worker – possibly next year, strengthening of the volunteer team and the creation of cell groups as a nucleus for a new local community of believers.