Teenage 'wicked' drop-in

02 November 2006


THE very rural Church of St James, Welland, in Worcester diocese, was open for only an hour each week on Sundays. Parishioners of the Hanley Castle benefice, of which the church is a part, met for half a day to ask where their churches were going, and what were their local needs. If money was going to be raised to spend on them, said their incumbent, the Revd Frances Wookey, then they must be put to greater use.

The people of Welland decided their greatest need was for their local teenagers. The young people of the village (population 1200) had nowhere to go. The Victorian St James's had an undercroft vestry used simply as a storeroom, and as damp and uninviting as most neglected cellars. But it had an entrance separate from the church, was structurally sound, and was big enough to be a small clubroom.

With £7000 from the Local Network Fund, and the teenagers themselves pitching in to do the decorating, says David Richardson, a churchwarden, the result was a comfortable room with heating, chairs, television, and a pool table.

Many of the teenagers had never been inside the church, and did not want to be known as a "church group", or to be supervised. But, with adult help, they drew up a code of conduct covering rules and safety, and now have a drop-in centre they variously describe as "cool" and "wicked".

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