Local Ipswich businessman Rob Wright talks about the future of Ipswich and how Christians can engage & pray for the vision for Ipswich
Over the last few years, Ipswich has repeatedly been one of East Anglia’s fastest growing economies. Subsequently, it has qualified for priority development funding from the highest levels of government. This reflects a principle of God’s kingdom; whoever has, to him more will be given, Jesus said (Matt 13:12). In other words, if you can faithfully steward what you have, you’ll get more.
As a result, a new initiative is now well under way to help co-ordinate the increasing opportunities for further development and regeneration, and make the most of the town’s fortunes.
Called Ipswich Vision, this initiative is a unique partnership involving seven of Ipswich’s major ‘gatekeepers’. These seven public figureheads are joining forces to take responsibility for establishing Suffolk’s county town as a place where people want to be and where businesses want to invest.
These partners include both Ipswich Borough & Suffolk County councils, the New Anglia LEP, Sandy Martin MP, the local chamber of commerce, our local university, and a body called Ipswich Central (a business development company responsible for supporting businesses in the town centre).
To achieve their aims, the partners have identified priority areas that must be addressed, including infrastructure, leisure and tourism, housing, regeneration and enterprise.
Across the UK, major civic bodies rarely collaborate in this way. Ipswich Vision is so unique that other towns and cities in the region are looking this way to see if they can learn something from our experience. It’s proving to be a very effective and productive way of implementing change, as 21 significant projects have been initiated to help transform the town centre, and by extension the town itself.
Some of these projects have already been completed (like the remodelling of Ipswich train station) some are now well underway (like the regeneration of Princes Street corridor as an enterprise zone) and some are still emerging from planning (like the new bridge crossings near the Waterfront).
But why is this so significant to Christians? Jesus gave us a great commission to disciple nations (Matt 28:19). Thinking about how we might do that practically, we know historically that nations follow our cities’ lead and cities shape culture. And culture is driven by values.
In other words, no matter how profound our plans are for shaping nations that have a heart for reaching the unchurched, the harassed and helpless, the broken, the hurting, the marginalised and the poor, if the prevailing culture resists compassion, inclusiveness, restoration, redemption, mercy and love, then the work of the kingdom (that the Lamb will receive the reward of His suffering) encounters greater resistance – within as well as outside the church.
So if we’re going to serve our nation with the good news of the kingdom, we are to be salt and light in our towns and cities – adding flavour and brightening signs of life with Christian values that make a difference on the streets where we live, work and play.
Now we know that God has a mind to use strong cities because that’s one of the places He gets to show His marvellous kindness (Ps 31:21). And we know He never changes; He’s the same yesterday and forever. Therefore, we can believe that God’s heart for Ipswich is that it becomes a strong place of refuge, enterprise, opportunity, social mobility and healing – a place where God’s incredible kindness prevails.
To that end, will you pray for Ipswich Vision and for Suffolk’s county town? Perhaps together we can help create a place that looks increasingly like a strong city where God shows many His marvel-inducing kindness in a whole host of social and economic settings.
Give thanks: that God loves Ipswich and its people, is blessing the town and is showing us His favour and goodness
Give thanks: let’s be thankful that despite political differences and different agendas, the Ipswich Visionpartners are constructively sitting around a table together for the benefit of the town, collaborating as best they can
Ask: that God will use these men and women from the public sector to help create a strong town where God’s kindness can be revealed to many
Bless: the partners’ deliberations, that they’ll have wisdom to know how best to apply their efforts for the good of the town, as well as work well together in increasingly committed relationships
Ask: God to bless the work of their hands, so that these projects will have the effects they were intended to create and more
Ask: God to bless Ipswich with heart, compassion and kindness as He blesses the town’s economy
Ask: that Ipswich will know that all good gifts come from the Father of lights, and that we will remember Him from where our increasing prosperity has come from
Rob Wright is a copywriter and graphic designer who has been running his own business in Ipswich since 1992. He has been involved in helping to design and produce the new Ipswich Vision website, where you can find out more about this initiative, as well as the projects currently underway or completed.