Helping young families in Somerset
The award won by Peasedown St John Methodist Church will go towards improving life for young families in this large, former coalmining village in North Somerset.
In keeping with the wider Methodist tradition of serving and reaching out to our neighbours, the church has long run a successful ‘Seeds’ toddler group which is often full, with around thirty families attending the weekly sessions in the church schoolroom and dining room.
Seeds plays an important part in the social life of the village. Factors like enforced isolation during the Covid lockdowns and the worsening financial crisis, make the support it offers even more vital.
‘The lockdowns really increased the strain on young families,’ said church member Jill Souter. ‘Although they have now ended, for some they have been replaced by the worry of how to make ends meet.
‘The effects of this have been seen at the toddler group. Some parents have expressed concern about their own mental health, and the increased social isolation that many people are feeling now. As regards the children themselves, we have noticed that some of them seem to be more withdrawn and less confident when it comes to playing with other children.’
The church hopes to use the £1,500 to try to combat these effects.
‘Our Children and Family Worker works alongside the church volunteers who run Seeds,’ said Jill, ‘and the award will be used to help her to undertake training so that she can run a parenting course to help families. Once trained as a parenting course facilitator, she will be able to pass on that training to volunteers to help keep the course going in the future.
‘It will also allow her to work longer hours and offer individual help as appropriate. The parenting course will primarily, though not only, be aimed at those who come to Seeds and who are struggling – Peasedown is a lovely village, but there are pockets of deprivation.
‘Seeds is one of a number of initiatives led by the three churches in Peasedown – ourselves, and the Anglican and Roman Catholic congregations – which have helped to foster a lovely spirit of cohesion in the village, and the toddler group undoubtedly plays a significant part in it – having people from all backgrounds coming together in this way obviously helps that process.’
It has also played a major role in increasing the numbers of younger people involved in the life of the church – some fifty parents and children have often attended Messy Church, for instance.
‘I was staggered when I heard that we had won,’ said Jill. ‘But it’s fabulous news and will really help us going forward.’