"THIS is the most successful community project in Shildon
probably ever - certainly that I have seen in 20 years," Helen
Goodman (left in photo), MP for Bishop Auckland, in
County Durham, said. She was commending
Shildon Alive, run by St John's, Shildon, which has a community hub
in the centre of the town, plus two community gardens, a credit
union, a food-aid project, an alcoholics' support group, carries
out adult literacy work, and runs various other activities.
It is building on the legacy of nearly 200 years of community
engagement, the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd David Tomlinson
(right in photo), says. Its aim is to improve the health,
confidence, and skills of more than 2000 local people.
It was Ms Goodman's first visit to the project, to stage one of
her regular surgeries there. "This project meets people where they
are at; it speaks their language," she said. "There are more people
involved, and I wonder if that is because it is church-led. You
have people with a strong sense of mission, and it is more
"It is important that this is a long-term project, not just a
quick fix. The church has been in Childon for 180 years, and will
be here for another 180 years."
"Not all the legacy of the church is positive," Paula Nelson, a
full-time community development worker in the project, said. "Some
of our visitors are frightened of going into church, and get
tongue-tied when talking to someone like a vicar. They see them as
But Mr Tomlinson has challenged that part of the legacy by
creating what he calls "the porous church", which is now paying
dividends: families are coming to church for the first time, and
then continuing to come. And now a house group is beginning, where
"new mums" explore issues of faith.