Henry writes: My friend Pete has been telling me about a project that his local church in Horsforth has helped to facilitate, and with his permission I share excerpts from a report that he wrote about it. In so many ways it reads to me like a fine example of feral spirituality.
“In 1955, mainly parishioners and local volunteers built the Scout and Guides Headquarters in the grounds of St James’ Parish Church. It flourished, serving the needs of the groups but as years passed numbers dwindled and essential maintenance was neglected. By 2010, it was no longer suitable for purpose and was in such a poor state of repair that demolition was suggested as the only option.
In 2019 myself and a colleague (both former Design and Technology teachers) approached the Parish Church to which I belong and who own the building. We asked permission to renovate the building and convert it into a community workshop. The P.C.C. fully supported the idea and not only agreed to allow us to use the building rent free but also provided a gift of £10,000 to enable work to start. They could clearly see the value of this project to serve the needs of the local community. As work progressed, not only did our team of volunteers grow but so did our vision for how it could serve the local community. We wanted a facility that was accessible to all, that met the standards set for school children, and provided a social space for chatting over a mug of tea. A phrase was coined, “it’s not just about making things, but for making relationships”....
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We took the first step and a volunteer drew up a design for the building and applied for planning permission. When this was granted in June 2019, work began. By July 2019 another Church member registered Horsforth Shed as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. The charitable aims are to “promote social inclusion by assisting individuals to integrate into society. This means learning together in a workshop environment and creating an atmosphere of mutual support. The services of the Shed are directed towards helping any individual who is, or is at risk of becoming, socially excluded.”
Another gifted individual from the Church who agreed to take on the role of Chair of Trustees Our first grant application was for £1,000 from Horsforth Town Council. One of the councillors had a woodworm treatment business and the work was undertaken free of charge. This has exemplified the support we have received from both the Church and the wider community such as the Town and City Council, numerous businesses and both national and local grant providers. We feel that we have been pushing an open door and we have also been privileged to receive generous donations in terms of skills or finance from many different individuals.
Our core team of volunteers gradually expanded. During the renovation we purposely drew alongside us students who were not in employment or training, the unemployed, people with a crisis in mental health or issues of addiction or older socially isolated individuals. These were the very people that we envisioned the Community Workshop serving. Professionals replaced the roof and some windows ,installed the exterior door and did the tarmac work and plastering. A qualified electrician joined us and undertook all the electrical installation free of charge saving many thousands of pounds. All of the other work was done by the volunteer team – insulation and cladding, drainage, flagging, plumbing, joinery, flooring etc. We calculate we raised £65,000 in cash and estimate we saved a similar amount through the use of volunteer labour.
The building was reroofed, with walls insulated and clad. All internal work was completed by the end of 2021 including the newly built social area We created level access and an accessible toilet so we can facilitate wheelchair users. Our aim was to create a well presented and welcoming environment.
Facilities & Equipment
The workshop is now fully equipped with a circular saw, band saw, chop saw, planer thicknesser, various sanding machines, scroll saw, router table, three woodwork lathes and a mortice machine. We have a fully stocked tool cupboard and a wide range of battery-operated tools. There is provision for nine people to complete bench work as well as the social area and kitchen. Since we started operating we discovered the second hand dust extraction ducted to the cellar was not able to cope. Two companies have worked together to fund a more powerful extraction unit costing over £2,000 that has also being installed at their expense.
Delivering a service to the local community
In November 2021, an individual donor from Church gave a gift of £18,000 to enable us to employ a part time Shed Manager for two days per week. We also have ten volunteers who are being trained as Shed Supervisors with accredited training in the use of the equipment and full DBS checks. For Health and safety reasons we always have two people running each session.
From the start of 2022 we have been operating for at least two and a half days per week. In the first three month of 2023 we have met with nine different groups totalling over 90 participants and delivered a total of 74 sessions with over 500 hours of contact time in the workshop. During this time we have been supported by ten volunteers who have contributed almost 200 hours of their time.
What an achievement
It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without the wonderful support we received from across the community. As project leader it has been a humbling experience to see so many give so generously.
Since opening our doors to the public at the start of 2021, we have engaged with a range of different individuals and groups. Although users praise the quality of the facilities and the opportunity to learn new skills, the mental health and social benefits of using the Shed are what shine through in testimonials. One drop-in session participant described how the Shed offers ‘a chance to have some creative time whilst being therapeutic - a way to ease the anxiety experienced following the problems and events of the last few years. Another said the Shed ‘has helped me a lot and given me the confidence to try new things’. Another commented on the ‘calm and friendly environment’ where they ‘feel less isolated and more productive while learning valuable skills’. “It's the best thing I do all week,” said Jim, a recovering addict.
Here are some of the activities underrtaken.
The last word
Will (not his actual name) is someone who attended with the Lighthouse group. Students may choose their own projects, and these range from storage units, stools, shelves to mug racks. Will, someone who has seriously struggled with issues of addiction and poor self-worth chose to produce a crucifix (image below). He cut a space through it and inserted a mirror. When asked why he said, ‘when you look into the mirror you see that you’re made in the image of God.’ Look closely and you can perhaps see his face – it was a beautiful moment.
However, very recently Will was so overwhelmed by his struggles that he took his own life, a sadly too common event in the life of the Lighthouse community. The family at the funeral were supported by over thirty members of his friends from this special community and were amazed to see what he had created. They were given the cross as a memento of Will's creative gifting. May Will’s recognition of being made in Gods image transform their and all of our relationships, relationships with each other, with God and with ourselves. What stands out is that working with others blesses us far more than it does them, it is great to learn from each other as we journey together. We are indebted to Will for what he has shared with us.
See https://www.horsforthshed.co.uk for more details.”
Comments about the site
Just wanting to say “yes” to this. You will be speaking for, and to, many. I will certainly be passing this on to others, and will contribute some thoughts myself later.
So, I was delighted to see Feral Spirituality make an appearance. I'd think you could find many wanting to join in