Communities supporting churches during lockdown

23 Nov 2020

Looking back over 2020, we see how volunteers and Friends groups across the country have been putting innovative ways of fundraising to the test, with great success. Three of our Local Community Officers, Nick Watts, Leigh-Anne Beattie and Tina Osgood, tell us more…

As the first lockdown created havoc with the calendar of events planned for the spring and summer months, CCT supporters rallied round to come up with new and creative ways of raising much-needed funds, while supporting their local communities through difficult times.

As well as loving historic churches, it seems many CCT volunteers also have green fingers. In Worcestershire, volunteer Robin Williams stepped up when the annual tea party at St John the Baptist’s Church in Strensham had to be cancelled. Local Community Officer (LCO) for Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, Leigh-Anne Beattie said, ‘Robin usually sells plants at the tea party and donates profits to CCT, but instead this year Robin hosted a socially-distanced plant sale and raised over £100. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Robin for all his hard work, and we look forward to seeing him back at the church again in person at next year’s tea party.’

Over in Sussex, Friends and volunteers had not just plants on their mind, but tea and sweet treats as well, according to Nick Watts, LCO for Kent, Sussex and Surrey:

‘Friends of St Peter’s, Preston Park, came to the rescue of neighbours frustrated by the closure of garden centres just as the season for planting came into view. Alistair, husband of the Friends’ Secretary, had carefully propagated and nurtured an abundance of tomato plants, ready for a planned sale at the church in May. They instead sold the plants from the porch of their house, raising £445 for CCT, with a further donation from the Friends rounding the cheque up to £500. It is heartwarming to think of the people who kindly supported the church through these purchases enjoying homegrown tomatoes through the summer; the legacy of the Friends’ generosity spreading through the gardens, allotments and kitchens of Preston Park.

Also in Sussex, the Friends of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Warminghurst combined plants, cake, and the internet by moving their highly popular May plant and cake sale online. The community donated home-baked cakes, preserves, seeds and plants and the resulting stock list was promoted via Facebook, e-newsletters and noticeboards. Interested punters contacted the Friends to place orders and arrange a socially-distanced drop-off or collection. A small stall and honesty box outside the church catered for the increasing numbers of walkers and cyclists. The sale raised £420 with a further £130 of donations raised by the generous community through the Friends’ Facebook page.

A little further east, the Friends of St Botolph’s Church in Botolph took a more direct approach later in the summer, parking an attractive tea trailer in a garden adjoining the churchyard and serving delicious refreshments and ice creams over the churchyard wall to locals and passing walkers. The Friends raised £200 on the first day alone and wayfarers exploring the nearby South Downs Way were grateful for a chance to rest a while in the idyllic setting of this Saxon church.’

Down in Dorset, Tina Osgood, LCO for Berkshire, Dorset and Hampshire, received a phenomenal response to the call for support from volunteers and supporters: ‘Area volunteer Simon Thompson was instrumental in providing support for CCT throughout lockdown. Simon, who also works for Dorset Community Action who have been very busy reacting to the need for local support, assisted with locking and unlocking several churches. Simon has been a valuable volunteer for many years, performing six-monthly checks and banking wall safe donations, which are now able to be collected once more thanks to Simon unlocking his local CCT churches, as well as assisting with pre-opening checks, and working with our maintenance staff.’

Tina also spoke to Rupert Hardy, one of CCT’s long-standing Dorset volunteers at St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson, who has been fundraising throughout lockdown: ‘Every year I organise a lunch for volunteers of other CCT churches in Dorset to swap ideas and network, which is much appreciated, and every May we hold a concert in our church to raise funds for CCT. This year would have been the fourteenth event, but sadly we have had to postpone the concert for Emily Burridge, a virtuoso cellist, due to COVID. To raise funds for CCT during the lockdown we emailed attendees from previous concerts, appealing for donations, thus raising £220. We also suggested that they might consider switching their Amazon accounts to Smile.Amazon, with CCT as the charity benefiting from 0.5% of transactions. It may sound small but it all adds up.’

There has been an amazing response from our volunteers to the challenges that COVID-19 has posed over recent months, from the practicalities of closing and then reopening our churches, to raising awareness of the financial implications of lockdown and the resultant necessary fundraising. We are indebted to all of the Friends Groups and volunteers across England who have worked so hard to fundraise for CCT in such challenging circumstances, finding the time and energy to make plans when so much was uncertain. They have also provided a valuable local and safe service for their communities, bringing people together and reinforcing the vital neighbourhood networks that have helped sustain these communities and the special churches at their heart over the centuries.