THE parishioners of Congresbury, in Somerset, have celebrated the 800th anniversary of the founding of their church with more than 800 acts of kindness. Their Vicar is urging others to continue the “outpouring of grace”.
Residents of the village, in north Somerset, were challenged to carry out 800 good deeds to commemorate each of the 800 years since the foundation of their church, St Andrew’s, last year. The acts — from emptying a dishwasher to donating and driving goods to refugees in Calais — were recorded anonymously on small cards, deposited in a box in the church, or by email.
The 800th act was recorded on Christmas Day. The latest count is 912, and rising. “If anything, it is snowballing,” the Vicar, the Revd Matthew Thomson, said on Tuesday. “People keep coming into the church and giving us cards.”
Despite recent reports labelling Congresbury the “kindest village in Britain” and the “most kind-hearted community in the country”, the parish was not unique, Mr Thomson said. “We’ve been blessed by the fact that this has happened despite us, as well as with us,” he said. “We can be just as grumpy as everyone else.”
The original idea, he said, was to build a “lasting legacy” for the community, which included two Methodist churches and an Anglican church in the neighbouring villages of West Wick and Banwell, in celebration of the milestone. The project was led by Becci North, who runs the community initiative Love Congresbury.
The volunteers have been handing out “kindness cards” since January 2015 at village events, including a festival in the grounds of the church, in June.
“A random act of kindness can be something very small, but it can have a major impact on someone’s life,” Ms North said. “It did not matter how small or large the act was: it was the fact someone took the time to help another person. What is wonderful is the spirit in which all of this was taken. The whole community has come together.”
Making tea for a friend in need, secretly paying a neighbour’s vet’s bill, giving clothes to a homeless person, helping to carry shopping, picking up litter, and painting public benches are among the acts recorded.
St Andrew’s has set a new target of 1600 acts in 2016. “Acts of kindness — or grace — has been around for a long time; we haven’t invented anything, we’ve just done it,” Mr Thomson said. “The Church as a whole needs to find and be agents of grace again in the wider community, to continue the wave.”