Stoke Newington church launches social justice incubator

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A Stoke Newington church has taken inspiration from its rich history of radicalism to launch a regular incubator for “people who want to make change happen”. New Unity, a non-religious congregation based in Newington Green, is hosting the first open meeting for its Changemakers Hub this Friday. It aims to bring together people with ideas for “greater justice” and those who can help make them a reality.

Rev Andy Pakula explained: “We recognise that lots of people want to create change, and this project is for those who may have a great idea, but don’t know how to get it off the ground and refine it. There's a need for community action, and we want to provide support for when you run into the inevitable brick wall, and help find a way around it.”

Pakula said the outcome of Friday’s first meeting will depend entirely on those who turn up, but he wants people to make connections: “We want changemakers to find the right people – it could be someone who can help them build a website, someone who can offer training, maybe some seed funding, anything really. There are no limitations. This will be a nursery where plans grow and involve, with the overall goal of achieving greater justice.”

New Unity was founded by English Dissenters in 1708, and has close links to some of history’s radical thinkers. “Mother of feminism” Mary Wollstonecraft was a member of the congregation at a time when the church’s minister was renowned civil rights campaigner Reverend Richard Price. Price was visited in Newington Green by US founding fathers Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, as well as John Adams, who went on to become the country’s second president.

Pakula said this rich history inspired the Changemakers Hub, adding: “Social justice is at the heart of everything we do. We campaigned against rogue landlords alongside the local branch of Citizens UK this year, and we’ve helped with refugee resettlements. We were also the only congregation in the country to refuse to marry straight people until everyone was given an equal right to do so.” Calling on people to join the hub, Pakula said: “If you want to change the world for the better, but don’t quite know how to go about it – come along. All we want to see is passion. There are so many needs, and so many ways to address them, but to do it you need passionate people. We’ll go wherever that passion is.”