Engage Award Winners are announced

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Engage Awards of £100 are being given to ten Cambridgeshire churches who have completed recent projects to help them engage with their communities. This is great news: when churches open their doors they not only meet real local need, they are also doing the best thing they can to keep the historic fabric in good shape: putting it to use!

The awards go to

Buckden – Easy access is something we should all take for granted. Thanks to the skill of retired members of the congregation, for a relatively small outlay access to the church building has been made easier for all with increased use of the building a result.

Burwell – The ‘Building to Serve’ project is inspirational. The PCC at Burwell has undertaken significant changes to the church building for the benefit of the wider community and remain undaunted as they plan the next phase.

Godmanchester – PCCs should not fear experimenting with their building. Moving pews from a traditional layout can free up space for a range of other activities as demonstrated so well at Godmanchester.

Hildersham – The longevity of church buildings is often down to the quality of the original materials and the craftsmen who built them. It’s heartening to read that this tradition lives on at Hildersham with the quality of the north porch, WC and kitchen. But a WC and kitchen is not just about quality of workmanship – for, as the PCC say in their application, they allow the church to be a building ‘fit for many purposes’.   

Horseheath – To hear the bells ring out after 30 years of silence as a change-ring would have been a marvellous moment. Bells have the ability to unite the generations and the visit by the Sunday and Brownie Group to the bell foundry would stay in the memories of many for years.

Horningsea – The PCC’s statement that ‘ St Peter’s Church has already been buzzing with Community activity since the work was completed at the end of April 2016’ sums it all up. I never cease to be amazed by the benefits a WC and simple kitchen can bring to both worshippers and the wider community. Well done Horningsea!

Gt Eversden – A church in need of repair can be dispiriting both for the onlooker and those responsible for its maintenance. Hats off to Gt Eversden PCC who recognised that wider community involvement was key to success. Undaunted by phase 1, further repairs are planned as well as the addition of a WC, kitchen and artwork. Amazing.

Somersham – A dark, poorly lit church can be detrimental to worship as well as making the building unattractive for wider-community use. The new scheme at Somersham brings alive the architecture of the church building and makes it far more practical for the wide range of activities attracted to this marvellous church.

Southoe – Tackling a church heating system is daunting but with support from the community and energetic fundraising Southoe have done it. The benefits are realised immediately – a warm church is a welcoming church – and its inspiring to read of the groups using the building.

Toseland is only allowed one award then my vote is for the loo. A simple and cheap solution constructed with self-help – they should go into business selling the design to other churches!

When I became Chair of the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust, I wanted to do something straight away to celebrate the committed and imaginative care that so many congregations – often very small – are showing for their historic churches buildings. In the Diocese of Ely we are encouraging our churches to engage fully and courageously with the needs of our communities”, and our places of worship can be a tremendous asset in doing that if we can re-imagine them and make the necessary adaptations to throw them open again to community use. “Again” because that is how they were used in days gone by, and history is coming alive when community celebrations fill our naves once more.

So I invented the idea of “Engage Awards”: small in monetary terms but trumpeting the huge worth of our local Cambridgeshire initiatives. Ten sponsors (grateful thanks to them!)soon came forward to gift the money for the awards and ten churches wrote in with news of some great local projects, well worthy of being winners. So on this year’s Ride and Stride Day, 10th September, when lots of us will be sponsored to visit our ancient churches and raise money for their care, I will be making a Grand Tour of our winners to present the Awards in person and enjoy the work first-hand.

You can sponsor my Tour and raise funds for CHCT by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/CHCTChairmansTour, and of course we’d be delighted if you’d join the Trust too: you’ll find our details at https://camhct.uk/, where there is also information about the Ride and Stride day.

 Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity.

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