Engage Awards 2017: the Grand Tour

What a great tour Jean and I had over the weekend of this year’s ten CHCT Engage Award winners (to add to the ten last year – our churches are on a roll), presenting certificates and cheques and admiring their endeavour and engagement with the local community. A building project can build more than a building! It can draw in the community in sharing the ideas, raising the funds, celebrating the completion, and using the new facilities. That’s why we call them “Engage” awards. And we know that this sort of engagement is also the best way of preserving the building as well. It’s a win-win. A post a day is going up in the winners’ honour but here for the record is the full list, with the judge’s comments, and some more photos. Great!

Elton: This is a truly inspirational project. The long-term repair of the windows has been secured thanks to the generosity of the community. But the windows’ repair has done much more: it has acted as a catalyst which has raised awareness, increased the congregation and donors, and acted as a spring-board for tackling another project. Wonderful.

Pidley: The photographs tell the story. Before the lighting scheme the chancel looked dark and the altar was barely visible. Now your eye moves east to the wonderfully lit sanctuary. The spin-off of additional weddings demonstrates how adapting lighting brings massive change to churches. I suspect the worshippers as well as community groups –  including the highly successful flower festival –will reap the benefits for years to come.

Little Paxton: Occasionally it takes something as dramatic as the falling masonry at Little Paxton to engage with the wider community. The repair, using experienced architects, has meant the churchyard path can be re-opened to the public who can appreciate this wonderful building and again, this project has acted as a spring-board to the forthcoming Wall to Wall scheme. The ‘pop-up’ tea room was a marvellous idea – well done for repairing this iconic building.

Somersham: It is very satisfying to repair a roof which will last for the next 100 years. We’re all custodians and being able to pass a church to the next generation in an improved condition is an aim we all aspire to. Somersham PCC has done it and secured a sound building for the amazing range of community groups it hosts. With a new lighting system last year and the roof this – what will next year bring?

Cheveley: This project has made a significant difference to the space round the font. Moving pews can be fraught – will people object?, What do we do with the pews afterwards? Cheveley has created additional space as well as making smaller, moveable pews. A definite win-win.

Buckden: Church buildings are all about proclaiming the Good News of our Lord. This can be done through the Word, worship, prayer and often the building itself. What an imaginative project from Buckden with the illuminated stars being seen by thousands of passers-by during the Advent season.

Mepal: The sound of a bell calling the community to worship is one of the evocative sounds of the English countryside. How different and quiet the area round Mepal St Mary must have been during the forced silence of the bell. But after this project the bell rings out again – Halleluiah! In addition, the community spirit roused with the success of this project seems to be the spur for further proposed alterations to the building. Well done Mepal.

Great Wilbraham: For some PCCs a church loo and servery has stopped being a luxury and become a necessity. St Nicholas’s has a wonderful suite of facilities very neatly installed at the west end. The clear glass balustrade of the ringing floor is striking in its simplicity and allows those the nave to have a clear view of the west window but also to admire the technique of the ringers. But there’s more to this project than that: with a toilet and modest kitchen the role of the church building can expand witnessed by the pre-service breakfasts and the other groups able to enjoy the building whether for concerts or meetings.

Fenstanton: What a transformation! Not only has the PCC converted a rather dowdy church hall into something very special but it has offered its community a superb venue for a wide range of activities – some of which seemed to have started as a result of the refurbishment. This is an excellent example of the Church engaging with the community.

Steeple Morden: One of the basics for offering hospitality is a warm environment. This can be difficult to achieve within a church building but it seems the PCC at St Peter & St Paul have cracked it. The result is successful café church expanding in numbers and, again, a project adding momentum to the development of further community projects in the church. An excellent result.