£10K boost for Skewen Parish
A £10K grant from the Welsh Assembly has provided a huge financial boost for the Parish of Skewen. Rev Christopher Coles, Priest in Charge, tells us how the money will be used to support the local community.
Your parish recently received a £10K grant from the Welsh Government. What will the grant be used for?
The grant is a great boost for the Tŷ Santes Fair community centre, as it will help us increase the facilities and range of activities we can offer. Since lockdown, we have had bills to pay and have lost the income from groups like Slimming World, who use the centre.
We plan to spend the money to develop the Men’s Shed initiative, a community space for men to connect, converse and create. We also want to maximise our community outside space to build disabled access paths, and develop a sensory garden (planting trees and flowers, working with Kew Gardens Grow Wild initiative).
We want to create areas for everybody to enjoy, including a wetland area that schools can use for learning.
We are only small but we have big plans!
Your parish plays an important role in the community. What else are you involved in?
Before the lockdown, the parish was busy with church groups, activities and services. Our Messy Church was growing and the Mothers’ Union members have been fantastic.
Since opening Tŷ Santes Fair things have blossomed. We host a variety of groups, including Men’s Shed, a craft group, and safeguarding training. We host Citizens Advice sessions and a weekly drop-in-café to help people with computer skills.
We host indoor bowls, church groups, deanery groups, and training. We have a community choir and other activities supporting our church, but many of the activities involve people from outside the church who are vulnerable and need support.
All this is on hold, but we are all itching to get going again, at least in some small way.
What have you learned during the Covid-19 crisis and has it changed the way you view your ministry and mission?
I have heard a wonderful amount of stories of how the Church has responded during the lockdown. Social media and the online presence of the Church reaches far more people than ever before. Parishes have helped a huge number of people during their isolation. I am sure that will not change and will further enhance the Church experience when our buildings reopen.
In a personal reflection I feel that I have been strengthened, knowing that the reason we wanted to rebuild the old St Mary’s, not as a church per se, but as a community resource that does what ‘Church’ is supposed to do, was working and will continue soon.
Jesus said ‘Come to me all you who are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. Tŷ Santes Fair seeks to continue that work.
We built it with love and faith, to reach out to others so they could share that love and faith. Thanks be to God.
Tell us about yourself and your journey towards priesthood
Before training and ordination, I worked in hotel management and then in admin and payroll. I was drawn to the Church through the choir at St Illtyd’s, in Llantwit Major. I attended prayer groups, bible studies, joined retreats, and grew in faith. I even joined the PCC! I felt I belonged there, but more importantly, I felt I belonged to God and wanted to share that feeling with others.
I trained at St Michael’s College in Llandaff. I was ordained in 1999 and priested in 2000. I served in Coity under Bishop David Yeoman, then in Canton and Porth before moving to Skewen in 2013.
They tasked me with rebuilding the old St Mary’s Church that had been demolished in 2012. We achieved this in September 2018 with the support of the parish and community members. We also received support from our AM David Rees, from MPs Christina Rees and Stephen Kinnock, and the Welsh Government.
I am a member of the Diocesan Spirituality group, and the Standing Committee. I am pleased to serve as the current Area Dean of Neath.
What is your role in your parish and can you tell us about the team you work with?
Besides my diocesan and deanery duties, I’m the local vicar so I share with everybody the joys of faith and community. I have a supportive PCC, a brilliant team of volunteers - both in the parish church and in our new St Mary’s Community Centre.
The new centre couldn’t have been built without their knowledge, support and prayers. It has been wonderful to work with community people and groups.
Whilst some are not religious, they realise that we must ‘love our neighbours’.