How a place can transform people

Lessons from Toynbee Hall

In 1884, Church of England vicar Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta founded Toynbee Hall in London to bring people of faith, and others, face-to-face with the realities of poverty and exclusion, and to create the conditions for change. In other words, to equip people to transform London in practical ways, and to be a catalyst for social reform.

Many people were changed by their time at Toynbee Hall – including Clement Atlee (who would become one of the greatest PMs in UK history) and William Beveridge. Atlee and Beveridge, along with Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple and others, were the architects of a post-second world war Britain in which health care, employment, education and housing were available to all, not just those who could afford them.

Toynbee Hall continues in its mission and work today, with these words: “Today, Britain is facing another crisis of poverty as new economic, social and demographic trends undermine established solutions. It is as important as ever for Toynbee Hall to continue to identify emerging needs, pilot new responses and persuade local and national leaders to adopt them.” Amongst its many achievements, Toynbee Hall help to birth the settlement movement in the UK, Canada and globally – which aimed to tackle poverty not by hectoring, lecturing or blaming the poor, but by engaging with the poor and working towards practical solutions.

The mission of the Sorrento Retreat and Conference Centre is to be a “holy place of transformation for learning, healing and belonging”. Some might ask how our 24-acre campus and 8-acre natural farm in the beautiful (but geographically somewhat remote) South Shuswap region of British Columbia can actually, and practically, be a catalyst for transformation of people. We have many examples in our 56-year history and, as we look forward to our 60th anniversary in 2023 we will not only be looking backward to celebrate our strong legacy, but also looking forward to a rich future of opportunity and challenge. We are inspired by the continuing example of Toynbee Hall, one example of a particular place that has lived fully into an amazing mission. We are inspired to live more fully into our own mission.

You might also like...