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The Community Stars  

In 2017, as part of our Community Awards competition we asked Methodist Churches across the country to let us know how they were reaching out to communities and making a difference to people’s lives. 

The response to the competition was overwhelming, as so many churches sent in details of ingenious and life-changing projects. It was proof of the community spirit prevalent amongst the Methodist church communities, and showed that Methodism is taking an active stand in society, providing support, fellowship and guidance to people across the UK. 

It’s good to share

One of the key aims of our competition was to share ideas across the Methodist Connexion and inspire similar projects at other churches.

Sometimes, all it takes is a great idea and a band of willing volunteers to be able to reach out and offer vital services and support to people beyond those four walls. So we are sharing more of the projects we hear about with you, and hope they continue to inspire more churches. 

Simply click on the Community Stars stories below to read a summary of each community project. 

Feeling inspired?

You can download a copy of the stories which have inspired you the most, simply click the download button under each story.

Each wonderful story includes a checklist showing you what you might need to create something similar at your church.
  • Shed your worries

     
    ‘Men’s Sheds’ is a unique initiative in Australia that gives bereaved and unemployed men the chance to come together and use their practical skills to make and mend.  

    Littlebeck Methodist Church in Yorkshire decided to try something similar. The church opened up its schoolroom at the back of the church and invited men to come along and put their hands to any tasks that needed doing.  

    From making bird boxes to lathe turning walking sticks, from woodwork to metalwork, the men are now busy every week making, fixing and mending. There’s no pressure, just plenty of camaraderie and friendship.  

    The group is getting known up and down the valley and the community is much more aware of the church presence and mission. The famous Coast-to-Coast Path goes right past the chapel, and if walkers come past on a Tuesday or a Thursday they will see the men hard at work.  

  • A space for families

     
    Young adults who have been brought up in care often find the lack of family support difficult when they start raising a family of their own. Regent Street Methodist Church in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, is taking part in a Parent Support Project to help young families across the area.  

    The church opens its doors every week so that parents and families can come and see specialist support workers in a calm and friendly environment. People can access a wide range of services ranging from advice about benefits through to counselling.  

    Over the years, the relationships between the parents, church volunteers and support workers have grown stronger than ever. Every Christmas the church makes up hampers for parents as Christmas presents, and has helped to organise two weddings for parents in the group.  

    The project has had a huge impact. Parents are now finding the support they need, and the church is reaching out beyond the four walls to make a real difference in the community.  

  • A rock for ramblers

     
    The Rock is an area west of Telford that is steeped in history, with many mines, Victorian industrial sites and chapels in the vicinity. The recently created Lawley and Overdale History Trail takes in some of the key sites, enabling ramblers to appreciate the history all around them.  

    Sadly, many of the chapels and facilities marked on the trail map are now closed, which gave the congregation at The Rock Primitive Methodist Chapel an idea. There weren’t many places for walkers to find refreshments on their travels, so The Rock filled the gap by opening its doors and offering tea and coffee.  

    The church itself used to be on a crossroads, and occupies a prominent position on the last leg of the history trail. The local history group stopped there on their very first walk and everyone was welcomed with hot drinks and biscuits. 

    The history buffs took the opportunity to look around the historic building and were so taken with the chapel that they now hold their regular meetings there. 

  • They came in two by two

     
    Sunbury Methodist Church wanted to make sure that none of the families on its doorstep felt intimidated about bringing children through its doors. So the church members started holding monthly services dedicated to young children up to the age of nine, with each session focused on a ‘zoo’ of toy animals.   

    Each animal can spark something interesting. For example, in one service all the youngsters chose fluffy animals to play with, but Iggy the Iguana went unchosen. So the lesson became that God accepts you whatever you look like.  

    Each service begins with some craft or play, with the children encouraged to do a jigsaw or draw something before activities begin. A group of people then performs a sketch, highlighting a story or issue that they want to focus on.  

    Just recently, Sunbury has adapted the style of services to become SMC World of Adventures. There are two famous theme parks nearby, and the monthly services now focus on subjects that are inspired by amusement parks.  

  • Grounds for celebration

     
    When members of Wetheral Methodist Church in Cumbria heard that the parish council was looking for land to create some new allotments, they thought their old Chapel Field would be the perfect spot.  

    The prospective allotment holders came along with their partners to clear the site, dig up the earth and lay paths. In just a few months the allotments had taken shape and were ready for planting.  

    Having been just a patch of weedy waste ground before, the chapel field is now a neat and tidy hive of industry, and a talking point in the village.  

    Allotment holders grow everything from potatoes and onions to leaks, beans and sprouts. They even donate some of the produce each year for the harvest festival, which must hold the record for the most locally sourced produce in the whole country! 

  • Make do and mend

     
    In January 2016, Tower St Methodist Church ran its first ever monthly Repair Café, inviting people across the community to bring along any object that had seen better days and have it looked at – and if possible, repaired – by their team of expert repairers.  

    People came in with all manner of items, from clothing to electrical items like sewing machines and CD players. Six repairers kindly gave their talents and time for the day to try and see what they could get fixed.  

    The café is now a recurring monthly event at Tower St. Repairers enjoy passing on their skills and techniques, and people in the community come along for a chat and a cuppa.  

    The objects all come with stories, as many are worth much more in sentimental value than monetary. To take just one example, one woman in her 90s had a pottery rabbit that she had bought for her mother when she was a child. The café is making a huge difference to the community, providing a much-needed service and companionship too.  

  • A project of two halves

     
    Like many urban areas, Bournemouth has seen a sharp rise in the number of people sleeping rough in recent years. Bournemouth Churches Alongside Rough Sleepers (BCARS) is offering a number of services to help people get off the streets, find accommodation and build their skills.

    Every winter, churches like St George’s in Bournemouth open their premises to offer people living on the streets a safe place to sleep. St George’s is also involved in Half Time, a project that gives rough sleepers the chance to have a shower and use a washing machine and tumble dryer. Volunteers are on hand to offer support with housing, benefits and connecting with families once again.

    The final piece of the jigsaw is 2nd HALF, a project that gives people a structured programme with work opportunities. Two days a week, people who have been living on the streets can come along and learn work skills in a newly opened café.

    The services are making a huge difference to the community and to St George’s itself. Members of the congregation actively hand out BCARS cards to rough sleepers, signposting where people can go to find help.

  • A recipe for success

     
    When Hylda Emsden of Trinity Methodist Church heard that clients of the local foodbank weren’t always sure how to cook the ingredients they received, she came up with an ingenious solution. 

    Hylda got together with other volunteers from churches across the region to offer cookery classes to anyone who wanted to come along. 

    The group aims to cover a huge variety of foods and ingredients, including main meals, desserts, soups and cakes. All are low cost, easy to prepare and nourishing, and there’s always plenty of practical advice on offer. 

    The cookery classes are run in partnership with a number of churches in the area, and all are funded by the churches themselves.

    The courses have been so popular that they have been running ever since. 

  • A unique approach for uniforms

     
    For many young families, the rising cost of living means they have to decide between buying new school uniforms for their children or putting food on the table. 

    St Luke’s Methodist Church is part of a group of churches that have come together to create Free Uniform for Secondary Schools (FUSS), a project that supplies supply school clothing for families living on The Wirral Peninsula. 

    Families can come along to a FUSS community hub or the group’s shop in Birkenhead, where they can pick out the items they need. Parents of secondary school children can also request clothes online via the FUSS website. 

    The initiative has already inspired a number of similar projects across the North and North East of the UK, and it has brought churches together across The Wirral too.

  • A vibrant history lesson

     
    Leyburn is a beautiful market town in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. One member of the congregation wanted to make sure the history of the town was captured before it vanished forever.

    The project involved talking to people across the community to record their memories and find old photographs of Leyburn through the years. Some of the more elderly people were fairly housebound and welcomed the visit and the chance to chat about their memories.

    The information and photographs were then all brought together on a number of A2 sheets and exhibited in the Methodist Chapel. Visitors could use post-it notes to add their own comments. The exhibition also included a display showing many of the weddings that had taken place in the churches and chapels of Leyburn.

    The whole display will now soon be digitized and housed in the local library, ensuring that the social history of Leyburn and the stories of all the local businesses that worked in the area can live on.

  • A world of flavours

     
    When Port St Mary Methodist Church on the Isle of Man needed to raise funds to modernise facilities, the congregation decided to reach out to the community for help.

    The church was originally known as Mt Tabor, and the congregation drew on that heritage to create ‘Tabor on Thursday’, a series of evening events designed to encourage people into the church.

    The events each take a theme based on a particular country, and guests enjoy a two-course meal with a non-alcoholic drink, followed by tea and coffee. Each regionally-themed meal is cooked by a professionally trained chef, and the food is always very well received.

    After the meal, a short talk or musical performance rounds off the evening. The church also hosts regular film nights and talks. Since the church has thrown open its doors wide, more and more people are becoming involved, and the congregation is already planning ahead to the next season of events.

  • Our daily bread

     
    Walk down Bold Street in Central Liverpool on a Tuesday or Thursday lunchtime and if you’re lucky you might catch the aroma of freshly baked bread. Twice a week, the Bread Church meets to bake bread, worship and offer companionship, right in the heart of Liverpool.

    The Bread Church meets in a flat above a shop, and anyone is invited. The church has played host to everyone from Big Issue sellers to Bishops, from asylum seekers to Archdeacons and from the powerless to Presidents of Conference.

    Baking bread enables people to relax, chat, tell stories and simply be together. Everyone is given time to speak, and people can participate as much or as little as they want to.

    It’s an idea that’s certainly catching on. The church is regularly full, and is now on the look out for new premises. The idea has taken hold internationally too, and there are now Bread Churches in both Stockholm and in Soweto.

  • A Helping Hand indeed

     
    To raise funds for its vital work, Hyde & Denton Circuit decided to open a charity shop on Hyde high street in Greater Manchester. Stock is donated by church members and the community, and the shop sells everything from clothing to books and small electrical goods.

    One major part of Helping Hand’s philosophy is that every item should be low-cost. The shop enables young families to come and buy baby clothes for as little as 30p an item, providing much-needed support to people on low incomes.

    Helping Hand also helps give people the chance to learn new skills and experience in the retail environment. From young people starting on their career through to people living with disabilities, Helping Hand has trained over 70 people so far.

    With the trainees, volunteers and shoppers, there’s always a vibrant atmosphere at Helping Hand, and the shop has become a cornerstone of the community. People enjoy coming along to support the church, even if they are not churchgoers themselves.

  • Support you can bank on

     
    Located on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, Woodhouse Close Church Community Centre is helping people of all ages. Its Crisis Intervention Project offers vital support to people who are experiencing extreme hardship, financial or domestic crises.

    Members of the church congregations across the area donate items for the foodbank, and when there is a particular need then a call goes out for more support.

    People can also visit the Community Centre for advice on benefits or housing, with specialist advisors available at certain times of the week. More and more people come along for support, or sometimes just to feel part of something.

    The Church Centre also provides a furniture project for people in crisis, such as people fleeing domestic violence or having to move somewhere at short notice. The project has become a vital part of the community, and a number of people who have been helped by Woodhouse are now volunteering to help in turn.

    Talk to our team

    Winner of the grand prize revealed

    We are proud to announce that the winner of the grand prize, claiming the £5,000 prize is Burrington Methodist Church, North Devon.  
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