Marsh Church and Community Volunteer Awards

These Awards are run in partnership with The National Churches Trust and recognise volunteers across the UK who have had an innovative idea about how to use a church building, have contributed significantly to the sustainability of their church building, or who are delivering highly valued help to people locally through and in their church building.

Through this award we recognise seven volunteers from across the UK. Nominations can be made via the National Churches Trust website. Entries for the Award are judged by a panel of representatives from the National Churches Trust and the MCT, as well as colleagues in the sector.

In 2020, it was agreed that the structure of the Awards should be altered to reflect the changes that have had to be made to volunteering within churches due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Awards were refocused to recognise those who have made a positive difference to people’s lives through their churches during the coronavirus pandemic, taken from stories and research gathered by the National Churches Trust throughout the pandemic. 

St Hilda's, Christ Church, St James the Great, and Holy Trinity 2023

National and England: St Hilda, Redcar 

The church of St Hilda has once again become the centre of the community after being rebuilt when the original building had to be torn down due to structural issues. The small core group of volunteers at the church demonstrate great community spirit and, without them, St Hilda would not be at the heart of the community. The core group of 7 volunteers range in age from 40 to 76 and are also trustees of the church charity, with a number of additional volunteers assisting with activities when they are needed. The volunteers run a weekly church charity shop and community café, where donated items are sold on to the community or given free of charge where people are in need. They also run a bereavement drop in service and a wellbeing support group, activities for young people including a homework club, offer access to a range of support services for the community and open the building to a wide range of local activities. St Hilda has a warm, welcoming atmosphere and the volunteers are well-organised and well looked after, ensuring that people can get the most out of giving their time to the church and that the volunteers’ skills are being used in the best possible way.  

Northern Ireland: Christ Church, Londonderry 

Christ Church is a traditional Anglican Church which has a central role in Londonderry as a vessel of cohesion within a divided community. The team of 14 volunteers maintain the church fabric, cleaning the building regularly, displaying flowers weekly and ensuring that there is detailed information available to visitors who come to the church. More recently, the volunteers have been instrumental in the diversification in the use of the building as a concert and events venue, taking advantage of the acoustics and instruments that are already available in the building. Christchurch has hosted numerous groups of both local and national significance as well as up-and-coming musicians, and have also collaborated with three other bodies to encourage local heritage events at the church. One project that the volunteers are currently leading on is the creation of a properly curated museum area in the building to showcase the registers that date back to 1850. The congregation at Christchurch is aging, but the passion of the volunteers has helped to generate a sense of hope about the future of the church. Not only have the volunteers brought new life to the church building, they have also helped to raise much needed funds and bring the community together in a celebration of culture and heritage. 

Scotland: St James the Great, Stonehaven 

St James the Great is a Scottish Episcopal Church with a small congregation but a wide community reach. The volunteer team are all members of the congregation and help run a variety of activities which respond to the needs of the community. One of these is a regular drop-in coffee morning, which has then sparked a number of new initiatives for the volunteers at the church. The most prevalent of these is the Garden Project, which saw volunteers encourage a group from a local learning disabilities charity to assist with improving the grounds of the church, as they were looking for an activity to engage their members. This has proven to be a way for the church volunteers to collaborate with other local organisations and provide them with the support that they need. The volunteers are reactive to the needs of the community, evidenced in the work that they have done with Ukrainian refugees and their host families. People refer to St James the Great as a ‘Bridge Church’, not only for its geographical location next to a bridge, but also for the way that the building has become a bridge to the local community. The volunteers are welcoming to all, and are always on the lookout for new ways to engage locals with the church building. 

Wales: Holy Trinity, Trefnant 

Holy Trinity is a small rural church with a warm, engaging and welcoming community of volunteers. They are an incredibly enthusiastic team and willing to try their hand at any activities that engage with the local community. The volunteers are welcomed to use their skills and experience in a role that suits them well and are encouraged to come up with new ideas and activities that could be run from the church. One of the more innovative activities that the volunteers have introduced is ‘Prayers and Bears’, a project which encourages parents to bring their children into the church for a service and a chance to meet other local families. Since the project was founded in 2021, the families involved had been isolated due to the pandemic and so the project has been a way for their children to socialise for the first time. Other activities run from the church include a monthly book club, a youth group, a foodbank and community events which bring people together and help to raise funds for the church. The camaraderie between the volunteers is clear to see and extends beyond them being in the church building itself, they often help one another in their personal lives where it is needed. The commitment of the volunteers has helped raise awareness of Holy Trinity and created a welcoming space for the whole community. 

Previous Winners

St Peter’s and The Hub, Living History in the Community, St Gregory’s Foodbank and The Outpost, St Paul’s

England: St Peter’s and The Hub, Peterchurch, Herefordshire 

St Peter’s serves the rural community of Peterchurch, a small village which is a popular tourist destination. The church aims to provide practical as well as spiritual support to local people, helping to tackle the isolation and limited access to services that residents can face. Many of the volunteers at the Hub are not regular churchgoers, but local people who wish to make a contribution to their community. The volunteers range in age from their early 30s to their early 80s and some travel to the village to give of their time. The Hub offers a broad range of activities and support for the community including a café and a library. The café is the main community asset for the Hub as it is not only an opportunity to generate revenue for the church, but also offers a safe and welcoming space for local people to reduce their social isolation and speak to others about the issues that are worrying them. The Hub also runs a community helpline, which grew exponentially during the pandemic as a way for residents to remain in contact with one another at a time when people could not meet in person. St Peter’s is truly a focus for the community and that is largely thanks to the work of volunteers at the Hub.  


Northern Ireland: Living History in the Community, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Strabane 

The church is a focal point for worship and community activities in Strabane, one of the most deprived local areas in the UK. The Community Heritage volunteers who run this project range in age from teenagers to pensioners, bringing the younger and older generation together with a shared interest. Volunteers have been involved in researching the heritage of the local area for an exhibition, in conservation skills training to be able to prepare objects that were to be displayed and in tour guide training so that they would be able to share their findings with visitors to the exhibition. The project has a Community Engagement plan which ensures that they are reaching as many local people as possible, and an active social media presence which helps keep all volunteers engaged. Through this project, volunteers feel connected to their local community and have expressed excitement about the opportunities that the project has presented to them. The volunteers have helped to bring the profile of the church and its heritage to the front and centre and the church has become the beating heart of the community. The volunteers have sparked an interest in community heritage and have created a living, breathing museum in their church.  


Scotland: St Gregory’s Foodbank, Wyndford, Glasgow 

Wyndford is one of the most deprived areas of Glasgow and St Gregory’s has identified the need to provide both practical and spiritual support to the community. A team of over 20 volunteers, from a variety of churches in the area, have built up one of the busiest foodbanks in Glasgow to do just this. The volunteers have responded to the need they have seen in their local community, and it has never been difficult for the foodbank to recruit volunteers. Most of the volunteers have been recruited since the start of the pandemic in 2020, when the foodbank was serving over 300 people each week. The foodbank is open 5 days a week and no referral is needed, meaning that anyone who is struggling with food poverty can attend to pick up what they need. The foodbank, and the volunteers who run it, are making a real difference to the lives of families who are struggling to put food on the table. The volunteers have been able to maintain and grow a vital service to the community despite the challenges of lockdown during the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis.  


Wales and National Winner: The Outpost, St Paul’s, Rhosesmor, Flintshire 

St Paul’s is a small church but works extensively in the community thanks to the 37 volunteers who work in the Outpost shop and coffee area. The Outpost is accessible every day and offers a welcome sense of belonging and wellbeing. The volunteers are a capable, competent, cheerful group who have a professional approach to running the shop which helps reduce social isolation in the village whilst also providing practical help since the closest shop is 3 miles away. The volunteers are heavily involved in the running of the project and are closely consulted through review meetings to ensure that the shop is achieving what it needs to for the community. The shop supports local suppliers by stocking their goods and also respects people’s situations by asking shoppers to give what they can if they are struggling to make ends meet. The Outpost is so much more than a village shop as the volunteers have started up a number of community groups including a book club and social afternoons. The Outpost is a vital resource for the surrounding community and has become a focal point where people can seek help and support. The volunteers have helped to bring life back to the centre of the village.  

SHINE, Mount Merrion, St Mary's and Morriston Tabernacle

Marsh Church and Community Heroes Awards 


England – SHINE, St Stephen’s, Bowling, Bradford  

SHINE is an organisation set up by St Stephen’s church to promote Social, Health, Inner, Natural and Emotional Wellbeing. The church was on the verge of closure 16 years ago but, thanks to the efforts of the local community, it has now become a thriving community base which supports everyone, no matter their background or religious beliefs. Throughout the pandemic, the church has supported the most vulnerable in the community through the provision of food parcels and a pamphlet to help families produce cheap but nutritious meals. They have also formed a clothes bank for children and have moved support group meetings online throughout this time. The church is located in an area of deprivation, and the activities run by SHINE are of invaluable help to the community. 

Northern Ireland – Volunteers at Mount Merrion, Belfast 

The volunteers at this church deliver support programmes with a focus on wellbeing, health and good nutrition through a variety of activities including running an allotment, hosting shared meals and providing education. The church is part of the East Belfast Coronavirus Community Support network and run a telephone line for people who need support throughout this time. They have been streaming their church services online and have a number of volunteers on hand to provide practical support for vulnerable people. The church has delivered up to 40 food parcels each week to families in need, as well as cleaning parcels and activity packs for children to assist them with their home learning while schools are closed. 

Scotland – Volunteers at St Mary’s, Port Glasgow 

St Mary’s is at the heart of a strong, close-knit community in an area of high unemployment due to the decline in ship building, which had once been the lifeblood of the town. Only 18 out of the 70 parishioners have access to the internet, and so the Reverend has taken to call people every 10 to 14 days throughout the pandemic to see if they need assistance of any kind. The volunteers at the church have produced a newsletter entitled ‘Forget Me Not’ which is produced every two weeks and keeps parishioners up to date with recent news at the church and in the community. The newsletters are often hand-delivered by volunteers, who provide much needed social contact for vulnerable parishioners and are also able to help them with any practical tasks (delivering shopping or collecting prescriptions) at the same time. 

Wales – Morriston Tabernacle, Morriston, Swansea 

Morriston Tabernacle is known as “the cathedral of chapels” and has an important civic role in the community in Swansea. Volunteers at the Tabernacle run an outreach programme based on musical performance and community support activities. Unfortunately, these activities were due to really get going as the pandemic hit and lockdown came into place, and so plans have had to be put on hold until it is safe to do so. The panel agreed that this Award would be a boost of motivation to the volunteers to get these activities up and running as soon as possible, as they will ensure that the community is looked after while also maintaining the cultural heritage of Wales through the music activities. 

Theophillia Shaw, Barbara Lewis, Peter Lovitt, Jill Kerry, David Furnival, Chris Bailey, Graham Harris,

Greater London: Theophilia Shaw, St Peter’s, Walworth

Theo works for a Christian charity in her day job and volunteers in a number of roles in her spare time. She leads the young people’s ministry at her local church where she contextualises what and how the scripture is applicable to young people in the 21st century. She co-leads the youth club which is designed to empower and equip young people to become leaders in their community and society. She is also the project manager of the winter night shelter at the church. Theo is one of the Parish Safeguarding Officers, looking out for the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults.

Scotland: Barbara Lewis, Annan United Reformed Church

Barbara works to engage young people with the church and music, working with the choir and a music group that she runs. The concerts that she puts on with each of these groups are excellent and the young people involved really enjoy themselves. Barbara also leads and conducts the Border Strathspey and Reel Society, a group of people who play traditional Scottish music, and she organised a concert by them to raise funds for major roof repairs for the church. The church is based in a small town which has pockets of major deprivation and since facilities were introduced, it has become a much needed hub for the local community.

Wales: Peter Lovitt, St German’s Church, Adamsdown, Cardiff

Peter is People’s Churchwarden and is involved in every aspect of both looking after the building and the activities taking place in the Parish. The church’s upkeep is a major challenge for the local area and since arriving, Peter has made all the difference to its future and place in the community. He has successfully organised and fundraised for a series of capital building projects and is now working on installing additional facilities for the church so that it can do even more for the community. Along with his wife, Peter volunteers as part of the Cardiff Churches Nightshelter network of seven churches from a range of denominations which provide accommodation for the homeless every night of the week from December through to March.

Northern Ireland: Jill Kerry, Ulster Historic Churches Trust

Jill has contributed to Northern Ireland’s churches and local communities through a three year maintenance project. The project has explored the use of drones for high level building inspections. The project has so far assisted 16 churches who have taken part with small maintenance grants and is due to work with a further 8 churches in the coming months. Looking after historic buildings creates an acute concern in Northern Ireland and many are at risk of closure. Jill has used over 20 years of experience as a chartered architect, working exclusively in conservation, to prevent these buildings from being closed and ensure that they remain an important part of the local community.

Central England: David Furnival, Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust

David devotes a high part of his life to the churches of Herefordshire and their promotion to the wider community. He passionately believes that churches should be recognised as a vital part of our heritage, and that non-churchgoers should feel as closely linked with their futures as Christian congregations. He set up a new website for the Trust, publishes a blog once a month and is extremely active on social media. David sees inclusion as central to his work as Chairman of the Trust and has built good relationships with all parts of both the church and local community. His most successful scheme is ‘Music in Quiet Places’ which encourages people who do not usually interact with churches to enjoy them through music. David’s initiatives are partly about raising funds for the Trust, but also demonstrate a passion for engaging whole communities in the future of their local historic buildings.

North of England: Chris Bailey, Art in Churches

Chris created a local voluntary group with the aim of bringing major contemporary art to the countryside, providing commissions and exhibition space for inspirational artists and attracting communities back to their local churches. A number of churches on a 26 mile trail are involved in the project and manned by volunteers. 7 artists created 7 new sculptures for the project which are capturing the interests of new audiences and connecting the contemporary with the surrounding landscape. The project follows an objective of “art for all” and they also run an education programme which sees artists go into local primary schools.

South of England: Graham Harris

Graham has been dedicated to churches in Somerset, served the local community and helped enable greater public engagement with churches. He is an active volunteer with the Friends of Leigh Church which supports the repair and conservation of St Giles’ Church and improve community facilities including a café where vulnerable local people. Graham set up the Leigh on Mendip Activity Group which provides support to older people while working to reduce loneliness. He has also been an active Ride and Stride Volunteer for the Somerset Churches Trust and put together the East Mendip Churches Heritage Trail, which raises over £1,000 per year.

Roger Haggar, Margaret Jackson, Arthur Acheson, Judith Kauntze, Anita Mansell, Ossie Lundie-Smith and Tracey Fellows

Wales: Roger Haggar

Roger is a lynch pin in his local church and has coordinated the setting up of a network of churches open to the public called ‘Peaceful Places’, a heritage tourism trail, which tells the stories of a collection of churches and chapels across North Ceredigion as well as promoting local businesses which are situated along the trail. Roger ensures that his local church is open every day and that there is a wealth of information about ‘Peaceful Places’ available to the public.

Scotland: Margaret Jackson

Margaret is chair of the fundraising committee at Paisley Methodist Church, the only remaining Methodist Central Hall in Scotland. The church needed to raise £450,579 to repair the roof and revitalise and open up the building once again to the public. Margaret has been key in raising funds for this through securing grants and organising a number of events to help raise money for this project and a number of other charities.

Northern Ireland: Arthur Acheson

Arthur played a key role in securing the future of May Street Presbyterian Church, organising and motivating the planning team, reaching out to the local community and helping to raise £500,000 to repair and develop the building. He has worked closely with the National Churches Trust as part of a capacity building project in Northern Ireland, sharing his knowledge and experience as a chartered architect and running focus and training groups on how churches can further engage with the local community and people of all faiths and backgrounds.

South of England: Judith Kauntze

Judith has made a huge contribution to the Devon Historic Churches Trust through fundraising, administration of the Trust and recruitment of new Trustees and volunteers. She played a major part in organising Devon Historic Churches Day, when hundreds of churches are open to the public and host a number of activities to fundraise for the Trust.

Central England: Anita Mansell

Anita has single-handedly driven the essential building work to enable Holy Trinity Old Hill to be used to serve the community, putting in tireless hours on fundraising bids, liaising with various parties and encouraging others to get involved. She promoted a positive view of the building as a heritage asset and has kept momentum going throughout the lengthy project, meaning that it can now be used to house activities for the whole community.

London: Ossie Lundie-Smith

Ossie has been instrumental to the success of the Music Hall Project, an initiative to form a partnership with churches to bring live music to people, at St Mary’s in Walthamstow. He was a key factor in engaging the local community and the church to work together to make the project a success.

North of England: Tracey Fellows

Tracey leads a team of volunteers who provide a free weekly café for the community in St James’ Church in Derbyshire. The team have also recently engaged the community bus each week to collect those who cannot get there under their own steam and set up emergency food support for those in need through the café. Tracey goes out of her way to use the church buildings to their full potential for the benefit of the local community.