A neglected area of a churchyard in St. Mary’s in Partington, a large social housing estate on the outskirts of Manchester, has been transformed to create a spiritual reflection garden with biblically inspired planting.
The transformation has brought together church members and others from the local community, giving volunteers a sense of purpose and achievement, exercise and recreation, fellowship and friendship, and for some, first steps on a journey of faith.
In 2019 the project won the highest “Level 5 – Outstanding Award” in the Royal Horticultural Society, North West Britain in Bloom "It's Your Neighbourhood" Competition.
The project was also successful in gaining an “Inclusive Neighbourhoods” financial grant from Trafford Council, awarded for projects where residents show pride in where they live, be active in the community, build lasting relationships and have fun!
The churchyard is now a talking point for the town, visited daily by members of the community to rest, remember and pray, and by numerous school and community groups. St. Mary’s hope their work may serve as an inspiration for other churches to see the value in making more of their churchyards for mission and community engagement.
On 16 March 2021, the diocese hosted a live webinar to share how the transformation of St. Mary’s garden took place. Revd Andrew Knight, vicar at St Mary's walks us through a virtual tour of the garden and explains how the church community came together to create the award-winning garden. It wasn't all plain sailing though. There were numerous challenges to overcome including vandalism and littler, but Andrew explains how, through community engagement, they were able to change behaviour.
Before and after photos are used to good effect to show how, a little bit of thought, some recycled materials and salvaged objects can make a huge difference to a regular church ground.
Caring for God’s Acre also talk about their work and how they can support you to make churchyards havens for wildlife. For more information, their website is www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk
You can find out more information about St Mary's on the website where they have an image gallery of their garden.
Feedback from the webinar was very positive, with a good proportion of people giving it five stars.
Questions, Answers and Comments from Explorers of Church Buildings: Churchyard Transformation Webinar on 16 March 2021