Weston churches secure funding to impact Estate community

Weston churches secure funding to impact Estate community

Holy Trinity Weston, working in an ecumenical partnership with Kings Community Church in Southampton, has won a funding bid to help them further love and serve the local people on the Weston Estate. Weston is an outer-city lower income housing estate community on the east side of Southampton, within the 5% most deprived Anglican parishes in England, and is the second most deprived parish in the Diocese of Winchester. Together, the partnership has secured a grant from the Church of England Innovation Fund to further their work (a pot being made available to support church-based innovation focused on at least of one of the following underrepresented groups: younger people and children; lower income communities; UK Minority Ethnic/Global Majority Heritage populations, urban areas. See here for more information)

During the Covid pandemic, the two churches began jointly running a Crisis Food Centre to help people in desperate need. But this vision has been expanded to include the next step in the chain, a Food Marketplace Scheme, provided by Southampton City Mission and hosted at Holy Trinity Church – the model is that for £5 people get £30 worth of fresh healthy food that they can select themselves.

“It’s a food membership scheme and idea is to provide a stepping stone from the crisis centre to something more sustainable that gives people dignity”

Revd Daron Medway, Vicar of Holy Trinity Weston

The Marketplace will include a small, welcoming community café which offers all of the health and wellbeing benefits of being in regular contact with a supportive network of peers and friends, as well as additional support from workshops run by partner agencies such as social prescribers and debt advice. There will also be volunteer parish nurse on site to address concerns people have especially around mental health, and to signpost people to other services. The project is also in the process of training a chaplain who will be providing spiritual care and a dedicated prayer space.

Another phase of the funded project will be focused on engaging with young adults (19-29s) – the churches are currently involved in a community consultation to see what would most engage with their needs. “At the moment they are saying they would like a community launderette, so the plan is to buy a shipping container to house the white goods. It’s important to understand that these young adults on the estate are young but they are not students – this is a different ministry entirely to a group of people who may already have started families (and may be parenting alone) and have a different set of needs. They may not be going to university but they are asking the big questions like all young people and don’t want to lose them at this important stage.”

Many of these young adults have come through the Weston children and youth work (7-18s) which has been consistently offered in the parish for 30 years. In 2017 Holy Trinity Weston registered Weston Church Youth Project (WCYP) as a charity because it had outgrown the ability and capacity of the PCC; the project now has 6 part-time contracted staff and a number of sessional workers. Prior to the onset of the Covid pandemic, the youth project saw an average of 200 children and young people each week at its open access youth clubs, and over 50 regularly engaged in faith-based activities.

“Lots of children, young people and families are coming along to our faith-based after school groups  but the leap to church on Sunday morning is still huge. With the help of Church of England Innovation Funding our project will help our community to continue exploring faith in a way that is closer to where they are both culturally and spiritually. Instead of asking them to come to the parish church, the ultimate aim is to plant a fresh expression of church around them. There’s lots to do and there are exciting times ahead! Do please pray for us!”

Revd Daron Medway

To find out more about Estate ministry, see the Estates Evangelism Task Force strategy here.