Revd Christel Erving is a curate at St Marys Wavertree in the Diocese of Liverpool. She is also now the Diocese’s Anti-Trafficking Project Coordinator, leading their work on ending modern slavery. We caught up with her to find out more about her and the city she calls home.
Christel, you recently held a workshop in Liverpool with lots of different anti-slavery organisations. What was the idea behind that?
The idea was it’s a kind of mapping exercise, scoping out what excellent work is already taking place in the Liverpool city region. It had become quite apparent in the few conversations I had had with people that there was lots of excellent work but it really wasn’t very joined up. So it was about getting all of those people in the room together, around the table, and getting people talking.
What was the major learning from the day? Where there any gaps?
One thing that was highlighted, and might be a key piece of work for us going forward, is that there was a modern slavery network that was set up, but there wasn’t anybody to drive that forwards. So we’re looking at having a network that hopefully can become a focal point for the Merseyside area. We’re also looking at producing a database for the network that then holds the details of all the projects and organisations, so it’s all in one place. At the moment it seems that there’s so many different places you can go.
What do you think the preconceptions are of modern slavery in the Diocese at the moment?
I think most people are quite unaware [of the problem]. But when you do start talking about car washes and nail bars you can see something registering. On the whole the response I get from people is this is definitely something we should be aware of and we can make a difference just by looking out, just by being aware of who is living next door, or the person who works in the business round the corner.
During the workshop there was some talk about Liverpool having a ‘culture of caring’. Do you think that’s true?
Yeah I really do feel that! It’s a welcoming, caring place, and for me, having always lived here I suppose I sort of take it for granted, but hearing from people who have moved to the city who say that, you think maybe there’s something in it.
I think my first experience of any kind of social action was at 16 when a friend from school wanted to go and help out at a soup run. So I went along with her and a whole army of local people who would just rock up on a Tuesday night and give out soup to the homeless. And I know that’s something that happens in lots of places, but I don’t know, there does feel like there’s a real heart to Liverpool.
What drives you to do social justice work? Do you think it’s a result of that soup run when you were 16?
I suppose there is something in that, as a teenager I had that first-hand experience of seeing poverty and vulnerability right in front of me, that up until that age had been fairly hidden. I’ve seen the difference that actually caring for people at their worst could make. That actually a kind word and a cup of soup made people feel loved and cared for.
And then obviously as a Christian we do have a gospel imperative to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. For me that is the gospel lived out. I think also my mum has always had a thing about justice and fairness… that was something she instilled in me.
Quick fire questions
Favourite meal? Tough one between pizza and anything with bacon in. I realise that bacon on its own is perhaps not a meal.
Cat or dog? Cats. I have two furry things sitting next to me at the moment.
Coffee or tea? Coffee, definitely, love a cup of coffee.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A geologist actually. Then I got to midway through university and I just felt God say actually, I want you to work with people, I want you to make a difference somehow and geology wasn’t going to do that.
Dream holiday destination? I love travelling! What is top of my list? Somewhere where there are mountains… I’m going to say the Alps.