Tell us about your organisation, how you started and what you do?
Windmill Community Church was founded in September 2013 by Terry and Margaret Wilkes as an inter-denominational Christian church with a vision to serve the local community; initially just 4 members met in a local school. As the church grew, so did the desire to have our own building and a permanent presence in the local communities of Finchfield and Castlecroft; thus the aspiration to purchase the old St. Thomas’ building in Oak Hill strengthened and flourished.
We successfully purchased and renovated the building and opened it for Sunday services in October 2019 and before long we had set up a weekly mothers and toddlers club and a coffee hub, each run by voluntary members of the church.
The hub soon became a central meeting place for young mums and lonely or bereaved older people to make new friends and within a short space of time we added a craft group and a community gospel choir to the mix. We also ran a Father’s Group to help fathers estranged from their children to better understand parenting, with a view to establishing a positive relationship with them. The course helped a number of fathers to reunite with their children.
What has been your greatest achievement?
The original building was a mission school, started in 1875. It was closed in 1998 and allowed to fall into disrepair, however a number of former congregation members had long campaigned to re-open the church as a community centre and formed the ‘Friends of St Thomas’ Church’, with the backing of the Finchfield and Castlecroft Community Association (FCCA).
One of our greatest achievements was raising more than half of the cost from the few members of our church, to purchase and restore the building. With the remaining finances coming from grant funders we returned the old St Thomas’ building back into a place of worship free from any liabilities.
What is your experience of support received from WVSC?
It has been, and still is, a really positive experience to collaborate with WVSC in our desire to care for the vulnerable and lonely people in our community.
With information from WVSC, we successfully applied for a Community Initiative grant from West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to create a ‘Good Neighbour Scheme’; this particularly benefits from WVSC’s on-going support through the referrals they give us.
We appointed a co-ordinator to receive referrals and allocate a member of the church to contact isolated people within the community; our hope was that by offering a friendly voice and a listening ear it would help lonely people to remain connected to others and improve their general mental health.
We’ve had some wonderful feedback from our ‘neighbours’ expressing gratitude for the weekly phone calls. As the lockdown restrictions have eased we’ve re-opened our Coffee Hub on the forecourt of the church and hope to move back into the building soon.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt about working with people in Wolverhampton?
People from Wolverhampton are much like people everywhere with diverse needs, challenges and struggles; our desire is to help our neighbours cope with their difficulties by being a source of friendship, support and comfort.
The Covid crisis has provided us with a new challenge and while we are unable to meet in person we continue to support each other through a network of phone calls co-ordinated by a volunteer. We produce a Sunday online worship service that members of the church are involved with and deliver a CD version each week to our church members unable to access the internet.
What are some of the challenges you face and how can WVSC help to support your organisation in the future?
We are currently involved in planting a new church in Compton that will replicate what we offer at Finchfield; an onerous task for a small body of people. Knowing that WVSC is always available for information, advice and support is a source of comfort and reassurance.
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