Chris is a Churchwarden at St Martin of Tours Parish Church, Whinney Banks, Middlesbrough; he completed Mustard Seed's 'Stepping Up' in December 2021 and was commissioned as a Community Minister at St Martin's in April 2022.

Chris says that "As I was coming to the end of Stepping Up, thoughts and plans were ongoing as to what I could do in Whinney Banks, where life can be tough. At this time, I was given a book to read by the Vicar: 'Slowdown, show up and Pray' by Ruth Rice. After reading it I was inspired by what I read, and I knew God was saying to me that the mental health and wellbeing area was what I needed to pursue and create a ‘quiet space where its OK not to be OK’."

Chris registered with ‘Renew Wellbeing’, got a team of Hosts together (Gill, Gillian and Hazel) and the team completed the training courses required, fulfilled all the criteria and received the go-ahead. Renew Wellbeing is a national charity helping churches set up Wellbeing spaces for anyone in the community to attend to help with their wellbeing. Renew promote emotional and mental wellbeing with the ability to signpost people to NHS and social care services when required, they aim to foster a sense of acceptance, belonging and community to help reduce loneliness and social isolation.

With the help of a grant from Mustard Seed, Chris changed St Martin’s Narthex (welcome area) into a Wellbeing Space and called it Renew@10. Chris says, "We are open at 10.00, and the address is 2-10 Whinney Banks Road."

Renew@10 use the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’:

Renew@10 operate a ‘bring a hobby, share a hobby’ style co-produced space where all are welcome, any faith or none. There is a quiet space for prayer and meditation should people wish to make use of it, and prayers are said mid-morning for anyone to join in with. These are not compulsory. Renew Wellbeing state they are ‘unashamedly Christian but embrace the journeys that other people are on.’

Chris contacted local GPs, MIND, Together Middlesbrough and the local Mental Health Team and has had a very positive response to what St Martin’s are doing. The Renew space is used by some to meet and chat and knit, there are some who see no-one week to week, and they say the time at Renew@10 is the best time of their week. Some come especially for pray time and others just drink tea or coffee and eat cake and biscuits (all free and provided by the church). There are puzzles, books, games, jigsaws and drawing materials for anyone to use, and a new activity will be offered each month to try.

On Sunday 10th July, the Vicar commissioned the Host Team, where they were asked, "Will you seek to develop the faith, gifts and skills God has given you as you share in Christ’s mission and ministry?" All replied, "With the help of God, we will".

Wednesday 13th July saw the official opening where Fiona Firestone (Area Co-ordinator from Renew Wellbeing) attended with other invited guests. There were cakes, coffee and the quiet space and prayers. Chris is excited to see who turns up each week to use the Wellbeing space and having chats, and as the word gets around it will see the church building being used by the community more and more and helping with their mental health and wellbeing.

There is information on each table in Renew@10 about what else the church is providing.

Chris finishes by saying, ‘The Stepping Up learning community came at a time when I was asking myself ‘what next?’ for me. I was pointed in its direction by others. All I can say is it was an amazing experience, fun, friendly, challenging and enlightening about myself, my faith and the community around the church. I would recommend it to anyone as a stepping stone on their personnel journey of service.’

St Martins is ‘Opening an opportunity for all to know God’s love by prayer, word and deed’

Mustard Seed