So often our stories focus on the ways Faith Groups can have a positive impact on their communities, but as we head towards a new year, we wanted to share with you a story of the impact this work can have on the Faith Group itself.
St Stephen’s is based in Dalmuir, Clydebank and over the Summer of 2017 it became home to Made With Love. We spoke about Made With Love recently on our Facebook page, but for those of you who do not follow us, Made with Love are a volunteer group who have been operating since 2016 making packed lunches over school holidays for local young people across Dalmuir, Hardgate and Kilbowie.
Ahead of Summer 2017 St Stephen’s reached out to Made With Love and offered them the use of the kitchen in their church hall. The extra space meant that MWL were able to expand to meet the needs they saw in their community providing 1200 free packed lunches over the summer of 2017.
Made With Love volunteers, recognising the generous resource St Stephen’s had offered, were not satisfied with just making packed lunches began serving soup while they were fixing up the lunches welcoming in older members of the community as well as local youth groups to come and grab a little food, have a cuppa and a natter.
This was when things started to happen. People began to look at their hall and see how it could be improved. Funding was found to upgrade the kitchen a little, improving facilities for both Made With Love, as well as the church. Rooms were reclaimed from years of stockpiled clutter by groups of volunteers, creating an even more welcoming and versatile space and providing the Caretaker with office space. The local Schools have got involved, with pupils participating in this year’s CARITAS Awards joining Made With Love to build Christmas Hampers and help distribute them to the local schools. (Hampers are gift wrapped and contain a full Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings to help a family celebrate the Festive Season).
An unexpected benefit of the recent activity, bringing more people using the church buildings is that it has reinvigorated interest in the Church’s tapestries. 10 embroidered Murals ranging from eight foot by ten foot, to eight foot by four foot, drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources to “Tell the story of God’s plan of salvation, and the revelation of His glory in Christ”
The tapestries were commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the current church building (the original having been destroyed during the Second World War). Netta Ewing DA BEd ADF(Manc), the Glasgow-based artist, designer and lecturer, founder of Sacred Threads designed the tapestries and helped the 28 volunteers of the “St Stephen’s Embroiderers Guild”. The group worked continuously for 8 years to complete the project which is the equivalent of around three quarters of the Bayeux Tapestry. Thanks to renewed interest the church hopes to participate in Open Doors Day 2018 to be able to share these beautiful examples of community art with the public.
The St Stephen’s Embroiderers Guild continue to meet to this day, sewing kneelers for members of the congregation, soft toys, and other craft pieces, holding annual sales to raise money for charity.
Why did we feel the need to share this story with you? Well, at times the news feels bleak of late, and perhaps there is always a benefit to be found in reflecting a little deeper on the good work that is going on. More than this though, as we spoke to Agnes, Christine and Morag, what struck us is that this was not “charity”, there was no hierarchy here of those who “have” giving down to the “needy”. This was a community coming together.
Where people bring their skills and resources together, as equals to meet a challenge, you show that better is possible, and the impacts are far reaching. Optimism is infectious; we have seen again and again, projects have reinvigorated communities and breathed new life into church halls and local people – When everyone comes together, everyone benefits, and no matter how often we see it we wont stop celebrating it.
If you’re looking to next year and hoping to start a project to support your community why not check out Transformation Team’s Resources. If you’d like to support Made With Love’s Christmas Hampers you can contact Christine on firstname.lastname@example.org and for more about St Stephen’s Embroiderers Guild head down to the hall on the 19th of November for their annual craft fair.