Marsh Innovative Church Project Awards 2018 - Shortlist

 

Five church community projects have been shortlisted for the Marsh Innovative Church Project Awards, a competition to find the Christian congregations running the best community activities in a church building, made possible through the installation of new facilities or through improved access.

The awards show the positive impact that installing new facilities has on churches and local communities, and on harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers. 

The awards are run jointly by the National Churches Trust, the UK’s church building support charity, and the Marsh Christian Trust.

The winner of the Marsh Innovative Church Project Awards will be announced at St Paul's Cathedral in London on 26 June 2018, and will be awarded a £1,000 prize. A runner up will be awarded a £500 prize.

The five shortlisted projects are listed below:

  • Living with Dementia, Chatty Cafe and Chatty Crochet, at Hope Baptist Chapel, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire
    Repair and redevelopment work on the chapel and community rooms have made possible these linked projects aimed at older people, which provide a caring and safe environment to develop social networks and practical support. 
  • New to the UK, at North Shields Baptist Church, Tyne and Wear
    Installing accessible toilets and heating and drain renovations provide space for a drop-in for people who are new to this country, providing a friendly welcome, a supportive community, help with English, and access to food and household goods. 
  • Book Cafe, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Thorrington, Essex
    Installation of an accessible toilet and reordering of some pews to create a social space has enabled a monthly cafe with home-made cakes and a book exchange to address loneliness and isolation in this rural community. 
  • Olly's Friendship Room, at St Michael and All Angels Church, Upper Sapey, Herefordshire
    The creation of a warm, comfortable meeting room for the whole community to use provides space for groups including a film club, astronomy club, table tennis and a baby and toddler group, with an emphasis on caring for mental health in the community.

  • WWII Audio Tour, at SS Peter, Paul and St Philomena, Wirral Peninsula
    Repairs and redevelopment have created an accessible toilet, kitchenette, shop, and social space, with, among other activities, a free WWII audio tour for primary schools and the local community to tell the story of how this church helped people during the Blitz and how it earned its nickname.

The judges’ criteria for the shortlist included projects that provide a clear benefit to the wider community, best practice in management and sustainability, and that serve marginalised communities and demonstrate a real understanding of local needs.

Judges for the Marsh Innovative Church Project Awards are: Luke March DL, Chairman of the National Churches Trust; Emily Reeves and Annie McCarthy, from the Marsh Christian Trust; and Sam Jones, Managing Director of community music organisation Soundthread

Living with Dementia, Chatty Cafe and Chatty Crochet, at Hope Baptist Chapel, Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire

Hope Baptist Chapel

Hope Baptist Chapel, built in the mid-nineteenth century at the centre of this Pennine town, has undergone a £1 million repair and redevelopment project in recent years as part of its intent to be community focused. The chapel is now an important venue for a variety of community activities. It will host a vibrant Arts Festival this year, including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and photographer Martin Parr. 

Living with Dementia, Chatty Cafe and Chatty Crochet are linked projects aimed at older people that provide a caring and safe environment to develop social networks and practical support. The groups were established after a series of community consultation events, and work with community partners. They support older people, people with dementia, and their carers. Enthusiastic volunteers and a part-time minister run the groups. 

Although the church promotes its architectural heritage, Hope Chapel is primarily a place of worship and a community resource. Rev Gaynor Hammond said: "The members of Hope Chapel felt a responsibility to fix the deteriorating heritage building and to open it as a welcoming place."  

Church website

Nonconformists Now - the story of Hope Chapel

 

New to the UK, at North Shields Baptist Church, Tyne and Wear

North Shields

North Shields Baptist Church was built in 1846, and has seen significant expansion in the years since. Alongside repair work to the windows, boiler and roof, accessible toilets were installed. This has created a friendly, welcoming space that suits both worship and social outreach - this would not have happened without adequate facilities.  

Consulting with users and the community had identified both that the facilities were not up to the proper standard, and that there was a growing need among refugees and asylum seekers. Updating the facilities enabled the church to meet this need, as well as remaining an active community hub. 

New to the UK is a weekly drop-in for people who have recently moved to this country, including refugees and asylum seekers. It provides a friendly welcome, a supportive community, help with English and free access to food, household goods and other help with everyday life. It is staffed entirely by volunteers, welcoming up to 40 people each week.

Church website

North Shields

Book Cafe, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Thorrington, Essex

Thorrington

St Mary's church serves a small community in rural Essex. It is Grade II* listed and dates from the fourteenth century, extensively repaired in 1477 and 1864. The church faced closure in 2011 because of the need for urgent major repairs. These completed, they installed an accessible toilet and removed some of the pews to create a social space for tables and chairs at the back of the church. 

Book Cafe is a volunteer-led monthly cafe with coffee, home-made cakes and a book exchange. Aimed at older people, it is designed to address loneliness and isolation in this rural community. There was great support within the community for the project, and the new facilities have made the building fit for purpose. 

With more visitors, the building is in better condition and able to serve its community. More new uses are planned in the future. 

Church website

Thorrington

Olly's Friendship Room, at St Michael and All Angels Church, Upper Sapey, Herefordshire

Upper Sapey

St Michael’s is a Grade II* listed Norman building, at the centre of community life for hundreds of years. At risk of permanent closure in 2013, the congregation voted to repair and rescue it, adding inside a warm comfortable meeting room. It has a particular emphasis on helping young and old to integrate, especially those suffering anxiety and depression and carers, by providing activities and education on mental health.

Olly’s Friendship Room is a large light welcoming space in the back of the church, heated separately, where the whole community can meet in friendship, supporting each other. Named after Olly Roberts, a young man who grew up attending this church but died in 2012 aged 32, suffering extreme anxiety (Akathisia) due to an adverse reaction to a prescribed medication. A successful photographer, film maker and composer, he left money and equipment hoping to enable those suffering from anxiety to receive help.

So the congregation felt that the church’s additional role should be to help the lonely and offer courses on Mindfulness, Mental Health First Aid, Relaxation, Painting and Writing, as well as Film, Music, and Astronomy Clubs, Coffee mornings, Table Tennis, a Baby & Toddler Group, and joint Craft activities for children and their grandparents during school holidays. These bring the community all together in happy, stimulating and supportive ways. They feel Olly would be delighted to know he had contributed to all this, and was indeed ‘helping others’ as he’d wished.

Church website

Olly's Friendship Foundation

Upper Sapey

WWII Audio Tour, at SS Peter, Paul and St Philomena, Wirral Peninsula

Dome of Home

The basilica-like Dome of Home is a major Wirral landmark, visible from afar. During WWII, it signified safety for sailors returning from Atlantic convoys. The church was closed in 2008, but reopened in 2012 as a national Shrine church. Three major repair projects have restored it since that time, accompanied by an accessible toilet, kitchenette, shop, and partioned area for refreshments. 

These changes have enabled the church to welcome primary school groups for their engaging WWII Audio Tour. Dramatisations of experiences of the Blitz from the local community are accompanied by traditional music and images, and children can dress up to travel back in time. The tour is accessed on smartphones or tablets from QR codes around the church. This engages a younger audience with the heritage of the church, and with their local area. 

Nearly 200 pupils have experienced the tour so far - welcomed into 'their' landmark church at the heart of their community. The church is closer to attaining a sustainable future, with enthusiastic volunteers and a steady stream of visitors.  

Church website