Grants Awarded 2019/20

Anna Chaplaincy, St. Albans

This grant application will help the two Methodist churches in St. Albans, Marlborough Road and Hatfield Road, establish a Gift of Years Anna Chaplaincy in the city in order to share God’s love with the elderly wherever they may be: in residential care, in congregations, in their own homes and in the community.  Such a chaplaincy will be an ecumenical appointment and will build on existing relationships between churches and residential homes as well as nurture new ones. 

Linked to the Bible Fellowship’s Gift of Years network, the full time Anna Chaplain will model a form of Chaplaincy that meets the spiritual needs of older people - including those with dementia - and to establish a team of ecumenical volunteers (Anna Friends).  Recruited and trained by the Anna Chaplain, the Anna Friends will support the Anna Chaplain in the expansion of the chaplaincy in breadth and depth, and, crucially, will make a major contribution towards ensuring sustainability beyond the five years of the grant.  The Anna Chaplaincy will begin in the areas local to the two churches but will expand across St. Albans where there are 10 care homes and numerous sheltered and independent living locations 

With regard to the eligibility criteria, the project impact / outcomes are described in Question 4, the project is a new approach in St. Albans and a Connexional grant (29% of project budget) will unlock District funds (20%) which have already been approved.  The project can be learned from by others, i.e.  scalable.

Grant awarded: £50,000.

The ARC Project, West Pennine Moors Circuit

The ARC Project, West Pennine Moors Circuit

The Asylum and Refugee Community, (ARC) is a Project of the Methodist Church, and has supported asylum seekers and refugees (AS&R) in Blackburn with Darwen (BwD) since 2004. Operating from Wesley Hall’s premises in the centre of Blackburn, the project developed into a partnership between the Children’s Society, Blackburn Cathedral and Wesley Hall Methodist Church. Due to Blackburn Cathedral’s budget restrictions, in 2012 the partnership with them came to end, and the West Pennine Moors Methodist Circuit (WPMC) took the lead by funding a paid employee to coordinate ARC and its activities. In 2013, ARC was able to increase its capacity as Cornerstone Healthcare secured funding for a full-time caseworker to work within the project. This gave ARC additional support to better respond to the needs of AS&R. ARC continued to provide support alongside the Children’s Society until their funding to work with AS&R families came to an end in 2016. Since this time, ARC has become the lead provider of support for the Borough’s AS&R. In 2014 the ARC office provided casework support to an average of 63 individuals per month. This jumped to 90 individuals per month during 2016.

In 2016, following consultation with ARC staff and volunteers, service users and partner organisations, the managing trustees of WPMC agreed to fund the appointment of an English Club Coordinator, to develop the existing English language classes. Also recognised as a result of the consultation, were the significant obstacles that refugees face in accessing employment. There was a clear need for a job Club to address the unique challenges faced by refugees, and to help them navigate the job market. The establishment of a Job Club was identified as a medium-term goal.

At present ARC operates with two full-time staff members, one-part time staff member and a long standing, experienced volunteer who gives 24 hours per week. The project is headed by the Project Manager, funded jointly by the West Pennine Moors Circuit and the Lancashire Methodist District. This funding stream comes to an end in March 2018. The Project Manager is supported by the full-time caseworker funded by Cornerstones Healthcare until March 2019.

In February 2017, ARC was approached by BwD Borough Council, and invited to submit a proposal for the provision of an enhanced English Club programme, and a new Job Club, with a view to these services being funded by the Local Authority from a central government pot. ARC has recently been informed that the bid was successful, this funding stream is expected to start in the autumn of 2017.

Whilst a proportion of the activity within the Job Club will be given over to Job Searches, it is proposed that the service will also provide:

  • IT Courses to equip clients with essential IT skills.
  • Work with partner organisations to access training and learning opportunities.
  • Work with local businesses to develop employment and work experience opportunities.
  • Partner with local organisations to develop volunteer opportunities.
  • To create a directory of services, educational and training courses.

The continuing development of ARC and the growth of its services, makes it essential that the funding stream for the ARC manager is renewed from March 2018. It is also essential to appoint a further full-time case worker to maintain capacity while enabling the ARC Manager to focus on managing the project. This application is being made funding to cover part of the overall operating costs of ARC over the next 2 years, during this exciting period of the project’s development.

Grant awarded: £40,000.

Bastion Tabletop Gaming Community, Manchester District

The intention of this project is to develop a new Christian community of growing disciples. It will be based around the tabletop gaming community, and will fund the start-up costs and salary costs for the earlier phases of the project, including the development of a high quality gaming environment within an existing church owned facility. The grant is needed to support the development of what we hope will become a new Church, in time, and the spreading of the Christian message throughout the gaming world regionally and nationally.

We recognise that one of the weakest areas of Christian mission in the UK in the twenty first century is amongst young men and it is, therefore, a deliberate strategy to create an environment in which a they will feel comfortable and confident to discuss all aspects of their life. Through these discussions, we intend to develop a new ecclesial community. Whilst the gaming community tends to be predominantly male, and hence the particular focus is to engage with young men, the gaming and Christian community that will develop will be open to all.

The Vision of our initiative will be “A destination gaming centre for tabletop, board and card games, built around a solid discipling Christian community.  We should offer prayer, love, teaching and an amazing gaming community.” 

The board games market is being driven by the growing demand for strategy-based games among school children, teenagers, and adults. The lure of hands-on and heads-on skill and knowledge development for different age groups is contributing to the popularity of these tabletop games.

This growing popularity of strategy and war games, and educational games, has led to an innovative and fresh way of bringing Christianity to those who are playing these board games.

This community will be open to both secular and Christian gamers of all ages and backgrounds but have a particular emphasis in appealing to young men, as they are currently the largest age and gender groups playing games today. One of the key measures of our success will be how inclusive and welcoming the centre is to all members of our community. Space for Christian discussion, prayer and bible study will be available for those who also want to take part in these activities.

An online presence will be created for booking gaming slots, purchasing gaming items and equipment, as well as to stream live gaming events and build community

From the fantasy genres of Star Wars, Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons to the more traditional board games of Risk, Monopoly, chess, draughts and card games, the Bastion Gaming Centre will provide a place where the challenge of strategic encounter will be alongside the challenge of ‘Faith’.

The Bastion Gaming Centre will employ a centre manager, who will have a gaming interest and a sound Christian background and be established in suitable premises – either in partnership with an existing church in their premises or in a separate rented venue. As the Centre will draw in gamers from around the area, good transport links will be a major factor in its location.

The Centre will have a clear Missional focus, meeting people where they are and providing opportunities for people to explore their Faith, their values and their health. This unique approach will benefit many hard to engage people and bring the Church a new approach that could serve as a model for others to follow.

Grant awarded: £110,435.

Brimscombe Intentional Community

Brimscombe Intentional Community

We are seeking to establish an intentional Christian community, using adapted rooms at Brimscombe Methodist Church as the “Community House”. The community would have a residential membership of 5-7 members and a dispersed membership drawn from local Methodists and other Christians.

We envisage that the resident community members would live in the community for one to two years. We believe this will provide an opportunity for young Christians (though not exclusively young) to:

  • experience Christian community living and a daily pattern of prayer
  • engage in mission to the local community in particular through the provision of meals to vulnerable and isolated members of the local community
  • participate in a programme of theological study
  • explore faith through creative/artistic expression
  • develop an environmentally sustainable community life
  • support Circuit, District and Connexional peace and justice work
  • work with other members of the community to develop a programme of workshops, conferences, retreats, study days, prayer walks
  • explore discipleship and vocation in a Methodist context.

Members of the dispersed element of the community will provide mentoring and spiritual direction for resident members as well as participating regularly in the life of the intentional community.

Brimscombe Methodist Church is a Grade II listed building with a small, elderly congregation who are deeply committed to sustaining a Christian witness in the local community. For many years the church’s School Rooms were used by a local charity, The Nelson Trust, who support people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. The charity now has its own offices locally and no other users for the Schools Rooms have been found. This lack of use makes the church vulnerable to cold and damp and significantly reduces the church’s income. The proposed intentional community will provide a new focus for the ongoing mission of the church (and Circuit) and ensure that this heritage building continues to be used in a sustainable way.

The intentional community’s Formation Group has developed strong links with partner organisations in the Brimscombe area: the Nelson Trust, The Grace Network, the Stroud and District Foodbank. We are planning work and volunteering opportunities for community members within these organisations.

We believe that many local Methodist congregations struggle to manage buildings that do not fit their present patterns of church life and worship. The proposed intentional community pioneers a new model for church and church use through which such buildings can become assets for mission, rather than liabilities.

A Mission and Ministry grant would provide tapered financial support to the intentional community as it develops its community life over a five year period with a view to the community becoming financially self-sustaining by the end of that period. Specifically, the grant would contribute towards the overall running costs of the project (heating, lighting, household and community member expenditure).

Grant awarded: £40,000.

Church of the Poor? Manchester District

When they speak about their ministry in poor urban communities, the Methodist Church and other UK denominations often tell a depressing story of decline and failure. There is evidence that churches have retreated from our poorest communities. 2016 research at the University of York found that “there was no evidence of a Methodist presence skewed towards the most deprived communities in England.” Outside the Methodist church, Anglican bishop Philip North has said that his own denomination is becoming “deaf to the cry of the poor”.

But we – Methodist churches in Greater Manchester, and our partner organisation Church Action on Poverty - see a different story. In many of the most marginalised communities, there are seeds of growth and resurrection. Churches are finding radical new ways to build community. Being with people rather than talking about them. Simply being present and sharing in these places’ forgottenness. Seeing the face of Jesus in people, rather than treating them as problems to be solved. Building what Pope Francis called ‘a poor church that is for the poor’.

Working in partnership with Church Action on Poverty and other ecumenical partners within Greater Manchester, we want to share that story of resurrection: furthering the vision in Manchester and Stockport Methodist District, and using it to inspire the UK’s churches more widely.

In a partnership between Church Action on Poverty and the district’s Methodist churches, we will: build a ‘community of praxis’ among churches engaged in social action in our region; share and deepen their learning about what it means to be a ‘Church of the Poor’ in both practical and theological terms; build an evidence base about the church’s allocation of resources to the poorest communities; and communicate the stories, ideas and learning to a wider audience in the churches within Greater Manchester and beyond. 

The project will form a strong link to the Connexional Evangelism and Growth Team in conjunction with the Church of the Poor priority stream.

Grant awarded: £50,000.

Experience Project, Southend

The grant will enable us to employ a (part-funded) full-time Community Development Facilitator who has a proven track      record   in delivering start-up projects within the local area, specialising in: fund raising, monitoring  and evaluation and gaining local authority partnership with a multi-agency approach.                    

In 2017  The Southend and Leigh Circuit employed a Mission Enabler to start exploring new mission initiatives around the circuit. One of the  sites focused upon was the Whittingham Avenue premises. The Whittingham Estate is situated within the Southchurch Ward of Southend, which is noted for being one of the poorest social housing areas within our town.                        

Due to low congregational numbers three local Methodist churches merged to become one church with three mission sites   serving their respective communities in September 2013. Currently a mums and tots group  use the church premises once a week in an outreach capacity, a night shelter for the homeless is also available through the Centre during seasonal times.                           

We are responding to this opportunity by bringing about a fresh missions thrust. To enable this to come into being we recognised the need for a Community Development Facilitator; a missional person   with previous experience and expertise  who would join heart, break new ground and pioneer a project to deliver the Gospel in a very practical way. 

The Experience Project plans to fulfil its name and strapline (OUT – IN -  UP): Attendees will Experience being drawn   OUT of the darkness and Projected IN to the Kingdom of light, offering them an opportunity to grow UP into whom they were originally designed and destined to be.  They will come OUT of poverty IN to productive careers that provide a healthier UP-bringing for the next generation.      

First initiatives to reduce poverty, improve health, community engagement and spiritual awareness; weekly after school meals for impoverished young families. This will be delivered in a themed environment where Gospel stories will be shared with both children and parents. As relationships and trust are built volunteering  opportunities will be offered to the parents encouraging their involvement. The volunteer development program will offer certification and Community  Champion positions. Through IN-KIND donations from (OCADO) an experienced team of Christian volunteers will help deliver this activity.

Grant awarded: £75,000.

Fijian Methodist Fellowship

The main aim of the Fijian Methodist Fellowship (FMF) project is to maximise every opportunity that we have to serve the pastoral, mission/outreach, administrative and connexional needs of the Fijian Methodist members in all three divisions in UK (N/Ireland, North and South). This will be achieved under these key objectives: Worship, Congregational Care, Christian Education and Mission/Outreach and Administration.

Second is to facilitate the process of integrating all FMF members in the British Methodist connexional system, hence beginning from the nearest local churches. That said the board of trustees (church committee) of the FMF have formulated six pillars of ministry, as outlined below, with the role descriptions of the new minister in charge to fulfil the expectations embedded in the vision and mission of the Methodist church. The details are as follows:

  • Pillar 1. Worship
  • Pillar 2. Congregation Care
  • Pillar 3. Christian Education
  • Pillar 4. Mission Outreach
  • Pillar 5. Administration
  • Pillar 6.  Accountability

Grant awarded: £80,000

Growing Church in the Community, New Lubbesthorpe, Leicestershire

The Lubbesthorpe Action Group, is an ecumenical group of Methodist, Baptist, Anglican and URC churches operating within the Churches Together in Leicestershire.  We are applying to our respective denominations for funds to develop the work of nurturing church beyond the church walls on this new 4000 dwellings housing development called New Lubbesthorpe which began in 2016.  Three hundred families have been welcomed into their new homes by our Community Development Worker – Baptist Minister, Sue Steer, who has been working in collaboration with the Churches, the Builders, the House Developer, and Blaby District Council.  She is based at, The Hub, and is intentionally drawing in residents to participate in the location, offering meals and faith discussions, community festivals, parents and toddlers, walking group, Easter festivals, etc., to build community and create a Christian presence in New Lubbesthorpe.

We are seeking three years of funds for 2020-2022 to support the Community Development Worker as she concentrates on growing the Hub into a permanent place of welcome, hospitality and innovation as well as a visible expression of Christian faith in New Lubbesthorpe.   We anticipate growing sustainable funds from 2023 onwards.

Grant awarded: £18,000.

Leven Online Radio, Hutton Rudby, Darlington District

Leven Online Radio is an internet-only station which launched in September 2019, from a studio in the chapel at Hutton Rudby, within the Stokesley Circuit of the Darlington District. Funding from Circuit and District has enabled us to buy the broadcasting equipment and pay for a part-time Manager. It identifies itself as a community radio station with an inclusive Christian ethos. 

It is now proposed to extend our reach through a Schools Engagement Project, forming links with the seven primary schools and large secondary school (with sixth form) located within our area. Paying due regard to the goals identified in the recently revised Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, we will develop a project that draws schools into a partnership with the Radio Station and hence the Church, within which we can offer a range of opportunities to the pupils involving broadcasting techniques which include recording, script-writing and reading, interviewing and editing. 

It will be clear from the outset that our approach to broadcasting, as to work in schools, will be as representatives of the Stokesley Methodist Circuit. Through collaboration with children as we plan programmes together, we will be encouraging conversations to develop that allow us to share the Gospel with them, in an open and relational way that makes for dialogue and further exploration.  We believe this will create opportunities for us to share our experience of Christ.  We will be working alongside young people who may have had little or no contact with any form of church, and therefore see ourselves as pioneers in a form of mission for which we sense there is little precedent. The work will co-ordinate with the Circuit Children’s Worker and hence link to out-of-school Christian activity. Our relationships and connection with the Circuit will ensure that any steps in faith made by the children and young people with whom we work will be nurtured and followed up by their local church and the Circuit youth worker.

Our project has already aroused interest among children and young people, with one local school establishing an after-school club for the radio in the studio in Hutton Rudby Methodist Church.  We have been approached by the local Guide company about making a programme on recycling.  A number of teenagers are volunteering and producing programmes with us.  We see these as signs that more children and young people will become enthusiastic about our project, and are confident of achieving measurable outcomes, both through equipping them in a range of new skills and opening them up to the good news. 

Our current part-time Radio Manager (a trained Christian youth worker) is fully stretched with maintaining existing output and building a wider audience for our shows. We therefore need funding for a further part-time job, which will enable us to develop and run the schools project.

The radio is itself an extension of the well-established mission of Hutton Rudby Methodist Church through its Community Hub, offering an environment in which to nurture new groups of young people, and others, who wish to explore the Gospel and its implications in greater depth and at more leisure.

Grant awarded: £23,000

Lozells Methodist Community Centre, Birmingham

Lozells Methodist Community Centre is a thriving place of welcome where the local community access support, lives are transformed and friendships are born. We have made a significant impact on a large number of people and hope to continue to grow and develop the work that began almost 8 years ago. Having received £10,000 per annum from 2017 – 2020 to contribute towards the costs of employing three members of staff, we are applying again to help with staffing costs as without investment in these vital posts the centre would not be the success it is today. These staff and volunteers are committed to the centre and often give sacrificially of their time and talents to work with partners in the local community and in so doing, promoting the work of LMCC.

This is risk taking mission that began as an exciting and innovative project and has established itself as the ‘the church in the community for the community’, offering a safe space to the local community and working with numerous partners both inside and outside the building. The project is an example of investing in resources to enable mission in the neighbourhood to flourish and the Methodist Church is held in high regard in this multi-cultural and diverse faith community. It is a model that others can learn from and could be replicated in similar contexts around the connexion.

Lozells is a community facing many challenges.  The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 lists Lozells, as amongst the 5% most deprived wards in the country, and 4th for income and employment.  Lozells has an age profile younger than Birmingham's average, and the percentage of ethnic minority residents well above the city average. Lozells has been affected by community tensions with riots in 1985 and 2005 and recent newspaper items refer to high levels of crime, including incidents of drugs, gun and knife crime and domestic violence, yet it is a privilege to be a part of this community.

Grant awarded: £50,000.

NEC Chaplain and District Chaplaincy Officer

Birmingham District 

The current incumbent started in post in September 2013 and has considerably raised the profile of the role. This project is needed to advocate and support chaplaincy in the District. It is also important to help with continuing to provide the chaplaincy at the NEC Group which both offers something of real value to a major employer in Birmingham and promotes the Methodist church in its role of offering God's love and care to all.

Grant award: £81,000

Pioneer Missioner, Shaw & Royton Circuit, Greater Manchester

The Shaw & Royton Circuit of the Methodist Church has embraced an outward-facing mission strategy which encourages each church in the Circuit to respond to the gospel of God’s love in Christ and to live out is discipleship in worship and mission. The proposed project is to enable the churches of the Circuit to respond to this strategy. The large proportion (80%) of the work of the project is to enable St Andrew’s Methodist Church to engage with its location, on a housing estate in Shaw, where it is both the only church building and the only community facility of any kind. St Andrews Church has 17 members and Sunday worship is poorly attended, but the premises are treated as a community centre by local people during the week. In this context the Pioneer Missioner will engage in developing new places for new people as appropriate to the demographic and context of the area.

Grant awarded: £44,839.

Trinity Centre, Cardiff

The Trinity Centre, in one of the most deprived areas in the centre of Cardiff, owes its existence to a group of factors, which came together in 2013. The former Trinity United Methodist Church was built around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Cardiff was booming at that stage and the church served a broad cross-section of local society. Large schoolroom premises and meeting rooms show how active the church was in supporting local children and young people for much of the 20th century. This tradition of service continued into the 21st century and Trinity was heavily involved in setting up initiatives like the Amelia Trust Farm and the Lightship Project in Cardiff Bay - as well as actively supporting the newly appointed Circuit Enabler for Ethnic Minority Congregations, Rev. Irfan John.

Although there were many good things happening at Trinity, there was also a major problem: the costs of running the extensive, ageing buildings had to be met by a congregation whose numbers were steadily shrinking and whose average age was rising. In 2013 the English language congregation decided to cease to meet and Trinity was faced with closure. There were major concerns within the Circuit that closure would lead to the loss of the mission and outreach work. After careful deliberations, the decision was made to establish ‘The Trinity Centre’ to explore new ways of providing witness, practical support and ecumenical operations in what had now become a significantly deprived, multi-cultural locality.

Although the Trinity Centre has occasionally provided services itself, the operating model is built on providing a base for specialist charities and other groups, who in turn delivered a variety of support services to asylum seekers, refugees, other needy people and members of the local community. By providing well-run premises and central services, the Trinity Centre maximises its own impact and the impact of the user groups. Currently, the Centre provides a base for a food bank, clothing store, ‘drop-in‘ activities, help for new arrivals to build contacts and social links, English classes, mother and toddler support, provision of hot meals, the development of cooking skills and a wide range of other cultural skills and activities.

So far, good results have been achieved in premises which are, frankly, a long way from good, modern standards. More than 100 years old, some of the fabric has deteriorated and needs attention. Basic facilities like kitchens and toilets urgently need upgrading. Reception, circulation space and disabled access do not meet modern standards. Outline plans to meet these needs have been prepared, and a major fundraising exercise has been started to meet the cost of a programme of improvements (costs estimated as around £1.2 millions). 

For the first five years of the Centre’s operations, the emphasis has been on simply keeping the building open and helping user groups to cope with the high levels of demand. We have now reached a position where at least 90% of running costs are being met by a combination of rentals from users and donations from within the Circuit and elsewhere.

As we start on the programme of fundraising and capital work needed to bring the premises to 21st century standards, we are faced with a period when rental income will be reduced because of disruption caused by the building work. We are seeking grant support from MEPJ to provide ‘the final piece in our revenue funding jigsaw’ for the next five years to ensure that current levels of good work continue as we work towards ‘stage 2’ of the project, which will see Trinity providing a better and even wider range of opportunities for ever larger numbers of needy people.

Grant awarded: £30,000.

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