Diocese of Chichester

Celebrating Volunteers: The Heartbeat of Community Action During Volunteers' Week

National Volunteers’ Week from June 3-9 is a chance to recognise, celebrate, and thank the UK’s incredible volunteers for all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector, and society as a whole. Archdeacon Angela shares an early memory of volunteering and we hear about other volunteering activity across the Diocese.

On 4 jun 2024

In News

By comms

Volunteers are the bedrock of community action. Each month, Church of England volunteers devote over 23 million hours across the country to community action above and beyond their normal church activities. Across the UK, an estimated 14.2 million people volunteer, and many of them are in our parishes.

Archdeacon of Horsham, Angela Martin said: “My first experience of volunteering was with my grandmother and her best friend. I recall spending the summer evenings making items to sell at the Christmas Bazar, we’d regularly ‘do’ the church flowers and when I visited at the weekend I would be enlisted to help with ‘doing the teas’ for one of the local charities. It was all great fun, and I loved every minute it was also a wonderful example that showed me just how rewarding it is to volunteer your time.”

In the Diocese of Chichester, over the May Bank Holiday, more than 300 young people gathered for a weekend of fun, fellowship, and worship at Maycamp - the church of England flagship youth event in Sussex. Speaking to Maycamp coordinator Dani Taylor, it is clear that the event could not happen without the help of volunteers. She said: “We had around 80 volunteer people on site at any one time. People volunteered in a range of roles, from site build to catering, organising activities, music, and worship.

“We simply could not run Maycamp without them. We are always looking for volunteers, so if you would like to get involved next year, please contact us as we would love to have you on board.” You can contact the team at youth@chichester.anglican.org.

Another great programme supported by the central diocesan team of volunteers is The Duke of Edinburgh Award. It offers young people a valuable and enriching experience and gives churches something interesting to offer the young people they are in contact with. Volunteers organise and run the expeditions section, which has seen growing numbers in the past couple of years.

The Authorised Lay Ministers course is skills-based training, another route by which people offer their valuable time in churches as they become equipped to play a vital role in the public ministry of their local churches, serving their parishes with dedication.

This growing volunteer support base has captured the imagination of hundreds of individuals in our churches who choose electives aligned with their skill sets and the needs of the church. Sheila Smith from St Andrew’s in Burgess Hill completed the Preaching elective. She said: “Hopefully, we will be able to help lighten the load of our new vicar.”

Chichester Cathedral volunteer guides ensure the rich history and heritage of our Cathedral continue to inspire and enchant visitors from around the world. This National Volunteers’ Week sees the cathedral celebrating its volunteer guides by introducing a new summer spotlight series - Tales from the Tour Guide - that will shine a light on this exceptional role in the cathedral.

Throughout the summer, a different guide is featured, offering a glimpse into their passion, dedication, and unique perspectives on the Cathedral’s rich history and heritage. This series aims to showcase the depth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and individuality that the volunteers bring to each tour. There are currently 30 volunteer guides, and you can read more about three of them featured on the cathedral’s website here.

One of the ways the Diocese thanks and recognises its volunteers is through The Order of St Richard Award. The awards were launched in 2019 by  Bishop Martin, to recognise exceptional Christian service in deaneries, parishes, and communities. Each year, around 40 recipients, put forward by their parish, attend a special service in Chichester Cathedral and are admitted into the Order.

In 2023, Gerald Gresham, 82, received the Order of St Richard. He moved from London to Tillington, near Petworth, and found the community he had always been looking for. He was quickly involved in the local church and continues to sweep the path and wind the clock. He also is involved with the local Churches Together at Petworth and is a member of 28 other community organisations.

As part of Volunteers’ Week 2024 – from June 3-9 – Christian Aid is joining other organisations to celebrate 40 years of the movement, share stories of its volunteers, and inspire people to sign up for a role. If you’d like to find out more about the variety of volunteer roles with Christian Aid, visit the website https://www.christianaid.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer and email volunteering@christian-aid.org with queries.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering in your local church, speak to the vicar or churchwarden. You can find your local church at ACHURCHNEARYOU.