St John’s Church in Shildon, County Durham has been named as the winner in a nationwide competition that sets out to recognise churches that have developed innovative ways to help their communities.
The competition run by Ecclesiastical Insurance received nearly four hundred entries from churches across the Church of England to their call for entrants to show how they were making a difference in their communities and how that could be easily replicated by other churches and bring the local community to the church.
St John’s Church, in Shildon, won the competition and a £10,000 prize for its Shildon Alive initiative.
Judges said they were impressed by the diversity of its activities and the sheer volume of support it gives the community- bringing together people of all ages and strengthening community spirit and pride.
Its work has included Guerilla Gardening which gives school children and the wider community ownership of public space, a community allotment and a foodbank where the food grown is distributed to those most in need.
It has also established a credit union, taking on local loan sharks and working with schools to introduce savings clubs for children, and got youngsters to dress as mini Santas to deliver presents to isolated, older residents.
More than 360 churches across the UK entered the competition, run by Ecclesiastical Insurance, and St John’s was announced as the winner at a ceremony in London on November 9.
Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical and a judge, said: “The Shildon Alive project, run by St John’s, particularly demonstrates the impact churches are having on their communities.
“We were impressed with the reach of the project which brought people from all walks of life together. St John’s is working in a deprived community, bringing a sense of hope and togetherness that simply wouldn’t exist without them.”
St John’s application detailed the work they had been doing over many years, starting with the formation of a community garden, then a drop in centre ‘Shildon Alive’ acting as a town centre hub for: a food-bank; a credit union; counselling services; a drop-in centre for the community and access to wide range of service. In addition they demonstrated through their community engagement programs with children and young people and other specific age group initiatives how the church can be the centre of its community.
The Revd David Tomlinson, Vicar of St John’s Shildon said: “I am thrilled that all of our hard work has been recognised. It’s not just about the Church and its members being recognised, but the whole community working together for the betterment of everyone. We were one of only two churches in the Northern half of the country to be named as a finalist, and to win the overal competiton is a brilliant accolade for the passion of the North.”
The six finalist were announced as:
- St John’s Church, Shildon, County Durham
- Bar Hill Church, Ely, Cambridgeshire
- St Stephen’s Church, Dulwich, London
- St John the Evangelist, Angell Town, London
- All Saints, Kilnwick, York
- All Saints’ Guildford, Guildford, Surrey