Around the Deaneries: Wantage


Coffee at Cornerstone

Sarah Shewring, Manager of the Cornerstone Christian Bookshop.

Sarah Shewring, Manager of the Cornerstone Christian Bookshop.

SARAH Shewring  feels blessed to have taken over as manager of the Cornerstone Christian Centre in Grove in April. The mother-of-two gave up her role as a radiographer at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital for a job closer to home because she wanted to see her children more. And she has not regretted taking over at the ecumenical café and bookstore.

Throughout the summer holidays she has run cake-decorating sessions for children and their parents and in September began a parenting course. Wartime talks by a local historian and beetle drives for older folk have also taken place at the centre, which has five paid members of staff and several volunteers.

The volunteers include those with disabilities, including autism and Down’s syndrome, and one woman with learning difficulties was recently taken on as a paid cleaner. “Part of our mission is to give people work experience and to be inclusive,” says Sarah. “Some of the people who come in are lonely and vulnerable and our volunteers, who have a bit more time on their hands, can sit down and talk to them. We put on a big, free Christmas dinner for our regulars and people are very appreciative of that.

“It’s a privilege to be in this position. We have made the decision to pay our staff the amount that the Church of England regards as a Living Wage and there is a brilliant atmosphere.”

Cornerstone’s trustees come from four local churches: Grove Free Evangelical, St John’s Church of England, Grove Methodist and Vale Elim.  “The churches work brilliantly together,” says Sarah, who enjoyed touring all four of them when she was first taken on. “It was brilliant to see people worshipping in different ways.”

“Look Mummy, there’s a leper”

THE Bible is being brought alive for school children in Grove as a group of volunteers read stories from scripture.

The group of up to 12 performers, including a nun in her 80s, has been running for a year and Margaret Fell, who is in charge of costume and props described how the performances are hard work but great fun. They follow the Bible Society’s ‘Open the Book’ programme of scripts offering 10 minute shows that use storytelling, mime and props. They are designed to fit neatly into school assemblies.

Margaret, a graphic designer who has costumes from North and West Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan, said: “There are eight groups going into various schools in the South Oxford and Vale of White Horse area. There are 2,000 groups across England. All props have to be assembled in five minutes and taken away swiftly to allow the assembly to continue.”
She said OFSTED had seen and approved of the group. Her props have included a well for the Woman at the Well story made from a clothes basket, and tabards for children to wear to act as soldiers made from the foil layer of Sainsbury’s Bags for Life freezer bags with head holes cut out. Margaret described how members of the cast had been recognised in the street, with one little boy who was out with his mum recognising a man who often played Jesus.“I know you, you are God,” the boy enthusiastically told the off-duty actor. In a potentially more embarrassing moment for a parent, another child pointed a cast member out in the street, exclaiming: “Look Mummy, there’s a leper.”

Margaret added: “The aim is to teach children Bible stories and help them understand a Christian ethos at a young age. At the end we have a prayer and tell children that if they want to make it their prayer too, they can say ‘Amen’.”

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The retiring types

STRONG links have been formed between St Andrew’s Church and Richmond Retirement Village in Letcombe Regis.

“We have given up trying to make coffee at the back of the church and we go to their café,” said the Revd Leonora Hill, Rector of the Ridgeway Benefice, which includes the village of Letcombe Regis. Needless to say, people who live in the retirement village attend and support the church. One of the churchwardens and the sacristan are Richmond residents. Leonora is building strong links with Richmond, attending coffee mornings and has begun a monthly communion service on a Thursday afternoon.

Richmond Retirement Village in Letcombe Regis opened in 2010, catering for people who live independently as well as caring and supporting those who need assisted-living and residents with dementia. The Retirement Village boasts a swimming pool, spa, library and IT suite and has regular exercise classes and events for its residents.

Leonora says that they recently had a service to commemorate World War One with poems, music and readings. Afterwards the residents shared old photograph albums and memorabilia and Richmond organised a band that played a medley of music from 1914 to 18 as well as songs from the 1920s. The residents really enjoyed it with a couple getting up and dancing. Last December Leonora also organised a carol service and Richmond invited the local school choir to lead the carols; the residents enjoyed it so much that they want the children back again this Christmas.

Warming up winter

PEOPLE were helped to keep warm with the Good King Wenceslas Project in the Wantage Downs Benefice. yarn

The idea of giving out bags filled with warming treats including biscuits, knitted blankets and hot water bottles was spearheaded by the Revd Elizabeth Birch, the Rector. The bags included a donation from the church to help recipients pay their winter fuel bills.  Now Elizabeth is once again enlisting the help of volunteers to put similar parcels together and deliver them to people in her area this Christmas.

“Fuel bills are an issue for everyone and that resonated very much. Plenty of people were happy to knit and it was a lovely way of pulling all sorts of people together,” said Elizabeth. The recipients were people from the community who were identified by Elizabeth and the churchwardens. To find out more contact Elizabeth on 01235 833235.

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