MRCT Welcomes Andy Thornton as our new CEO

We are pleased to announce this week that we have appointed a new CEO for the Trust. Andy Thornton will start with us on 7th September.


September 2020

Andy joins MRCT with over 30 years’ experience in community-based social action initiatives in England and Scotland and 12 years at the helm of national charities.

In 2001 Andy founded ‘Giving Nation’ – a national schools programme that engaged teenagers to support their local charities which connected thousands of teenagers who raised millions for local causes. He went on to head up the Citizenship Foundation, a national charity working in education to further democratic participation and engagement. This led to his role as consultant global trainer for the British Council, working in South East Asia and the Middle East, specialising in active citizenship. Today over 250,000 people have taken part in this ‘Active Citizens’ programme throughout the world.

Andy has a second string to his bow as a musician and was the manager of Greenbelt, a national Christian Arts Festival that he ran in the late 90s.

He is now excited to bring this knowledge and experience to support those in need in Harlow where he has raised his family and been an active community member for the last 15 years.

Andy is a member of St Mary’s Old Harlow and is married to Eugenie Harvey, also a charity CEO and Deputy Leader of Harlow Council.

Andy’s gave us this message about his new position with us:

I am excited and honoured to take on this new role as CEO of the Michael Roberts Charitable Trust.

I follow in very big footsteps! I want to begin by declaring my deepest respect and gratitude to Gary and Teresa Knott, whose visionary endeavours have created a secure, vital and transformational charity, responsible for so much good in Harlow. And, like them, I thank God for the vision and the great service that has been made possible through the gifts and actions of hundreds of people over so many years. 

This is a very unusual time to begin to take on this new challenge. Coronavirus has affected us all, and particularly the most vulnerable. As you may know, the Trust has had to suspend some of its activities because of the lockdown. Like many charities, we’re desperate to respond to the increased social need, and yet constrained by a difficult operating environment. 

It is hard to say what that will mean for our activities in the immediate future; we are all improvising in response to the times, but I was struck by hearing Mark’s Gospel the other day. Listening from the Bible app on my phone, one thing becomes clear when you hear several chapters at once – the urgency of the mission of Jesus. His non-stop sense of imperative: something had to be done about the situation, in his time and place, there and then.

Jesus lived in very messy times. In a world of uncertainty where loyalties and priorities were competing and often misdirected. A world where some people were all-powerful and others just powerless. You can hear how his message disturbed many of the powerful and comfortable, and at the same time brought comfort to the disturbed: reminding them that they had not been forgotten or overlooked. He was critical of the social and religious leaders of the day, but his ‘good news’ was that the answer could be found, indeed was within our grasp, and it would come from responding to God’s desire to reorder everything. The new order, he called “the kingdom of God”.

In God’s new order the hungry did not go without food, the grieving without comfort, the bereft without clothes and the poor without dignity.

This message was not one of simple charity. The new order was about compassion connected to justice, undoing past wrongs and bringing new hope. A recognition that everything and everyone belongs and belongs equally. 

For 23 years the Michael Roberts Charitable Trust has been doing that; through thousands of small actions, and welcoming anyone who can see that food, support, and dignity is a common good to join as equals in the task. And recognising that no one individual, organisation or approach will solve the complex problems we face, MRCT has worked alongside the many remarkable community organisations that similarly strive to make Harlow a better place to live.

It is remarkable that this uncertain time, when security is fragile and the future unknown, every street in our town has its own collection of heart-warming stories of neighbours helping neighbours; of people reaching out and offering what they can rather than just protecting what they have got. Indeed, in this enforced reordering we may discover something strangely precious: appreciating what we’ve got in life is easier when we share it with those who don’t have it. Then its value becomes clear and we recognise our blessings. It is impossible to put a price on that feeling!

Please pray for me and for all at the MRCT and for each of us, that we may not be daunted by the present fears but recognise that in the new order of God, we can all find security. Through the welcoming love of God and the power of our small offerings, things can be turned upside down for the better, leaving no one left out.

Andy Thornton

September 1 2020

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