Community usefulness

02 November 2006

WHEN the people of St Mary’s, Hamilton (Glasgow & Galloway diocese), found that they no longer needed the caretaker’s flat above the church hall for a caretaker, they decided to put it to community use.

“About four years ago, we set up a child-contact centre for supervised contact with separated parents,” says the Revd Ian Barcroft, the Rector. “We developed our own little charity, St Mary’s Family Support Project — not a very imaginative name,” he says now, and wishes they had thought of something better.

But they went on to ask local head teachers what the needs were. The heads said that they spent a lot of time meeting parents of children in difficulties for whom the school was often the only link. So, after looking round at other charities, St Mary’s joined up with the Family Service Units, applied and eventually managed to get community funding, and now has an FSU worker who liaises with the local schools and families, working from the flat.

Mr Barcroft chairs the Family Support Project, and members of his lively congregation of 80-100 each Sunday (he has 200 families in his flock) serve on the committee, and voluntarily co-ordinate the work. “The Episcopal Church never has much of a profile in Scotland, where it is so outnumbered by the Church of Scotland (with whom we work for the homeless),” he says, “but this has helped to raise it.”

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