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. 

SHINE, Mount Merrion, St Mary's and Morriston Tabernacle 2020

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. 

Previous Winners

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.