South Warnborough church gets Gold in Country Life

30 August 2012

South Warnborough church gets Gold in Country Life photo


VOTED BEST CHURCH for parish church restoration in this summer’s Country Life Olympics, St Andrew’s, South Warnborough, shows how a community-led church-ordering can have an impact far beyond the building.

Described by Country Life as “an exemplary community-led restoration,” the project to re-order St Andrew’s dates back to 2006 and was led by Graham Roberts, a member of the PCC, alongside Rev. Jane Leese, resident vicar at the time.

A village-sized job

With the newly re-ordered church freeing up more space, providing a new room for meetings and Sunday School alongside a small kitchen and a disabled loo, St Andrew’s may not seem that different from many other church re-orderings desired to improve size, flexibility and accessibility; however, at St Andrew’s, it was the people the building work brought together that had the real surprise effect.

“It was a wonderful project not only because it produced a super building, but because it involved almost the whole village,” said Rev. Kathy O’Loughlin, the current vicar.

“As much of the work as possible was done by the people in the village. This deepened the sense of community and ownership of the building.”

A lasting connection

Six years later, Graham’s group of participants (fondly known as the South Warnborough Gentlemen’s Working Club) still continue to meet monthly at the local pub.

The success of the church re-ordering has also inspired them to undertake other village projects including the creation of a village green and maintaining the local playground.

Winning gold in Country Life's Olympics is not the first time St Andrew’s have been recognised by the magazine though - in 2009, they won the Country Life 'Best Village Church for Village Life’ Award and £10,000.

The community inspired to work together by the church re-ordering in 2006, continue to look forward to future projects, with part of the 2009 prize money ear marked for village works, while part goes towards outreach – with a whole-village party thrown annually on St Andrew’s day.

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