Divine Inspiration began in July 2006 and was funded by English Heritage. It acknowledged that church buildings were held in trust for all people to explore and enjoy, of all ages and any spiritual persuasion. They are full of potential for learning, heritage, activity other than worship, cultural events and are, most importantly, for sharing.
HMP Lowdham Grange is a modern category B prison built on the site of a mid-20th century borstal for boys. Positioned at the top of a hill, its brick and concrete outer gate is rather imposing, the only entrance within the high walls. The prison is home to 900 long-term inmates, contained by the keys and security systems which keep prisoners inside and prevent the outside world from gaining access. 300 prison staff bring the total population to well over one thousand.
In stark contrast, for over 900 years St Mary’s Church has stood at the bottom of the same hill in a dell with a stream running through. Its grounds are demarcated by hedges and fences with a wooden gate for access. At one time the church door would have been open during the day for those who wished to come in and pray.
For eighteen months I made weekly visits to the Calais jungle. Home to ten thousand people on the move, the camp covered a couple of acres of wind-blasted wasteland at the back of the cement works by Calais’ harbour.
The camp was not an official response to the so-called migrant crisis. Rather it grew over many months as people who had been moved on from other parts of the city arrived and settled. It started as a collection of tents and became a community of wooden huts with cafes, shops and other businesses springing up to meet the needs of the residents that couldn’t be satisfied by the humanitarian efforts of a ragbag army of mainly British volunteers. I went because I sensed God calling me to go and offer the welcome of the gospel to people displaced by war and persecution. Yet on arrival I found welcome from some of the poorest, least settled people on the planet and I found myself asking God afresh, ‘what are you saying to me?’
Fosse Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network, is administered by St Peter’s Church in Kineton, a village in south-east Warwickshire. The headquarters of the local foodbank is based here, along with the warehouse and a distribution centre. It works with a network of rural churches to provide support for people in need from Wellesbourne in the west to Bishops Itchington and Southam in the north. Most, but not all, of our volunteers are from local churches and we work ecumenically with the Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Community and Roman Catholic churches in our area.