Barney Barron, interviewed by Jonathan Mutton, comments on how his family have worked through some of the issues surrounding moving to an area of deprivation, often more to do with the fear of others looking on.
Barney Barron, writes on behalf of his family, commenting on how they have coped and where they are struggling with doing the best for their own children living in areas of deprivation. Fear is often born out of ignorance and there is an image created by the media as to what areas of deprivation are like, drugs, crime, vandelism, failing schools come to mind and we fail to see the people. Those who are called to work in such situations have to work against that fear in others.
What was the attitude from your wider family and contacts for you moving to where you are, how did you deal with this?
We got quite a hard time moving on to the estate. My wife's father said he would not visit us on the estate if we moved there, (he did not stick with this and visits us fairly regularly). Other Christian's also gave us a lot of grief including some quite aggressive reactions that God would not want us to sacrifice our children in this way. What I found interesting is we found that our friends who wouldn't describe themselves as Christian were generally more supportive than those who are Christians.
Do your children feel at home in the community you are living in?
Yes most definitley, if we talk of moving away they will all say that they do not want to move, but want us to stay here at least until they have grown up and left home. They have become truly incarnational, but also have the advantage of mixing in circles outside the estate through family and friends. So I would say they will probably grow more rounded than most kids being able to mix with all sorts of people and treat them with equal respect.
Where do you as a family get spiritually energy?
I guess like ministering in any situation, who pastors the pastors? It is difficult sometimes to find places where we get spiritually fed and cared for. We find various ways of addressing this, one of these is our relationship with the mother church where our children still attend some groups.
What issues concern you with your children’s schooling?
To be honest this was probably our biggest concern before we moved here. Both the local primary and secondary school were in special measures in recent years. However both have good heads now who have more than pulled them out of trouble, both schools are doing very well. Sara has become a govenor at the local primary school and I have become a govenor at the secondary school in order to support the schools. The kids have all flourished at school and all enjoy school. This was an area that we got a particularly hard time from others. We were told we must send our children to schools off the estate, but for many reasons we didn't believe this was right, not least what does this say to our friends and neighbours,"your school is not good enough for our kids." I think education is often a bit of an idol for the middle classes, Education is much broader than academic achievement. There have been many Christians from our mother church who have moved on to the neighbouring estate after God has called them then moved away again in order to get their kids into the "right school." A couple of those people have confessed to me they did not feel God had called them to move off the estate, but that their children needed to come first. That is not to say that I'm sure God does call people out of situation's and sometimes for the good of the family, but I believe that is God's call not mine.
Is it fair to be putting your children through experiences that they would not have had to if you had not moved to your current situation?
The critcism that has often been directed at us is that I shouldn't drag my children here for my ministry. We believe that God called us here as a family and that it is our ministry. We have had to look at secondary schools with our two eldest in recent years. One has now started secondary and the other is due to start in September. With both of them we looked at other schools both on and off the estate, we spent time talking and praying with them and they both decided they wanted to go to the local school. In other words I believe that I would be depriving my kids of their ministry if we weren't in our current situation.
What boundaries do you set to keep life normal in what might be a very busy household with lots of people coming through your front door?
The home is a busy place and so we have found places to escape to as a family. We have joined a local sailing club and bought a sailing dinghy. We have an allotment and we also go out regularly together to walk the dog. When we are at home it is difficult, you are always on duty so it is just a case of finding places as a family that we can find time just to be with each other.