St Mary’s Brading
New Dawn Project
Growing hope and resilience
The New Dawn Project is a creative response to the present COVID Pandemic that has grown from the mission and vision of St Mary’s church, fuelled by need and resourced by the hard work of many willing volunteers. The initial phase was funded by personal loans and generous donations and through the visionary collaboration of the PCC who stepped out in faith and agreed the use of the hall as a permanent Market and the land owned by the church as a Community Garden and Orchard. The last six months has seen the flourishing of these endeavours and as the crisis has continued, we have been in a position to offer help and support to isolated individuals and struggling agencies and we now feel called to develop our offering in service and love to the community. To do this we need to employ people to take responsibility for growing this new vision for our Church and who can coordinate the many offers of help, progress collaborations that have begun and develop the initiatives we have started.
The New Dawn COVID Response Project
This project is part of the vision of St Mary’s and sits alongside and enriches the whole witness of the church. Other strands include a collaboration with the Town Trust to develop a permanent display for the town’s lottery funded Archive Project, the renovation of the bells, the Sunday services and parish occasional offices and pastoral care.
Rooted in the Call of the prophet Micah to ‘Seek justice, love Mercy and walk Humbly with our God’ and inspired by Christian radicals* who responded to the needs of their time; the project seeks to be part of the formation of an ecologically sustainable, spiritually enriching and equitable future for our communities that has the resilience to respond to the new normal that is unfolding.
The creation of a physical and spiritual space, which is rooted in a new monastic rule of life and daily rhythm, abundantly open, and part of the local community.
A space for simple fruitful living, supporting fulfilling, ethical and sustainable lifestyles through the community market, community growing, animal husbandry and healthy skills for life.
Learning, sharing, upskilling and empowerment. Campaigning, changemaking and environmental responsibility
A space for healing and supporting spiritual and mental wellbeing. Discovering the use of spiritual and emotional tools for wellbeing – for the healing of ourselves and in turn for healing others and the world. Rediscovering ancient wisdom from many traditions and sources and grounding action in contemplation, prayer and meditation, thereby developing reflective practitioners and individuals in all walks of life.
Praying, learning, contemplation and reflection. Spiritual growth and study
A space for practical community building, supporting individuals and groups to work and flourish together knowing we are stronger together with a deep need for human engagement and finding creative ways to reduce isolation and the feelings of being overwhelmed.
Modelling collaborative ways of living and working. Love in action, equality, non-hierarchical
* Jesus ( the sermon on the mount – love God, love your neighbour, love yourself); Mary ( the song of Mary, radical empowerment); Gerrard Winstanley (the Digger movement – land equality and sustainability); George Fox (Society of Friends – nonviolence, silence, non-conformity, equality); Julian of Norwich (contemplation, spiritual resilience); Mahatma Gandhi (non-violent resistance, simple living); Martin Luther King (non-violent resistance prophetic inspiration); Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich (empowering education); E.F. Schumacher (small is beautiful); St Francis of Assisi (integrity of all creation, community living, monasticism), Hilfield friary
The Project is up and running and is described on the web site at ….. stmarysbrading.com.
1. The Community Market is thriving and is a source of comfort, friendship, and fervent debate, providing an ethical shopping experience along with an anti-consumerist message and the welcome of a village post office! It is COVID-secure and resilient, offering a consistent lifeline through the waves of the crisis.
2. The Community Orchard is open to the public, the first trees are planted and the small flock of sheep is providing a flurry of interest and a pleasant addition to family walks. Lambs are due in the spring and we are starting discussions with the school, uniformed organisations, youth club and home education groups, as we all seek to provide COVID-secure outside learning experiences and involvement with the animals. Generous donations of tools from a local wildlife trust has given us the resources for beginning our work parties on the land for those suffering with mental health issues and we are supported by the local ‘Men in Sheds’ and the DofE group in these endeavours.
3. The Community Garden has developed into a herb garden and promotes education in the history and development of health and wellbeing. It will provide a fragrant and useful space for socially distant outside gathering in the summer.
The future plans
This vision for the future incorporates and develops all that we have begun and refines our priorities after evaluation of the first six months of the project. We are being approached by many agencies, groups, and individuals to be a key part of a COVID response. The dilemma has been around the question, ‘How do we form community and combat isolation while at the same time being socially distanced?’. The New Normal for the coming year, even with the prospect of a vaccine, is very uncertain and we need a model that is resilient and holds people even in deepest lockdown.
Looking to a monastic model and drawing on spiritual practises of the past and present, we feel that a life which structures our days together – including core members, volunteers and visitors alike – could give us the spiritual and mental stability that this time requires. It provides bookable slots and workable bubbles while giving the maximum opportunity for people to access the therapeutic benefits of work, prayer and hospitality. Inclusion in the life of the Project is completely open to all of any faith or none and all things in the day or part of day are optional, but the core team will hold to the rhythm creating a calm and assured base to the endeavour, rooted in prayer and the teachings of Jesus. From this we see the following activities growing with the support of paid staff committed to the rhythm.
1. Development of the Market to provide revenue and sustainability for the Project. Along with this, education for healthy and ethical food choices, growing, preserving, and creating delicious nutritious meals. Education and events to promote recycling and reduction in waste; and raising environmental awareness through art projects such as felt-making, wool crafts, fabric art and the decoration of the eco chapel with the school and local families.
2. Development of local spiritual life, groups and activities. This includes individual support and events to promote mental health and wellbeing both in the community and in the wider Deanery. It means awareness of being part of a wider church, and being called to offer all that we can.
3. Development of the outside spaces to provide for socially distanced outside gatherings and education. Planting and growing an outside living willow ‘classroom’ space, levelling and tending a forum for outside performances and worship, and creating an outside washing area for shared meals made on the open fire and for children visiting. We will be getting chickens for the families to look after; and lambing, shearing and eventually producing our own mutton for sale in the shop. We will be planting a fruit cage and developing the herb garden; growing herbs for healing, dyeing and eating that we will demonstrate through our educational programme.
The role of the Bursar
The PCC has oversight of the project which is managed by a small subgroup headed by the Priest in Charge. The buildings and land are managed through the PCC as are the insurance and general risk assessments and safeguarding. The New Dawn Project needs its own administration because of the complexities of the project such as a designated accounting stream and the increased involvement of many volunteers and visitors.
The role of the Chaplain
The specific and distinct skill of an experienced chaplain brings to the project a spiritual intelligence that is founded on outreach and inclusion, listening and commitment. The monastic rhythm supported by this post and the engagement with the wider Deanery offers considerable ability to grow in spiritual depth for all those involved.
The role of the Custodian
This is a ‘domestic’ one. Caring for the space and the hospitality and involving the volunteers in the tending of the space as a ‘home’ and house of welcome. By tending the animals and cooking, cleaning, working on the land and gardening the custodian opens a space for volunteers to offer their skills and to experience the contentment of communal work for the good of the whole. This is a fundamental part of the monastic life that we feel holds the key, along with the rhythm of prayer, to the healing potential of the space. The ownership of St Mary’s as a ‘home’ in times of turbulence when people’s homes have become their prisons is a concept that is more profound than the simple act of a dropping in to do a spot of weeding can seem on the surface.
The Priest-in-charge of St Mary's has oversight of the New Dawn project and the educational program in additional to her priestly and pastoral responsibilities for the Haven Benefice. She coordinates and facilitates the project and is responsible for promoting the vision of the project to the local community and the wider church.