By now the story of St Wenn and how it was transformed from a traditionally cold church that was challenging to hang around in the winter, to a warm, welcoming, open and accessible community hub, must be legendary. If it isn’t, it should be.

Thankfully, the Church Times have recognised St Wenn’s achievement and have shortlisted them for their national Green Building Award alongside Gloucester Cathedral, Holy Trinity Bradford on Avon and Holy Trinity Tulse Hill.

When Revd Elke Deeley asked local Stephen Chidgey if he could give the church a green make-over in the same way he had recently applied to his home, Stephen was sceptical. But, being a community man, Stephen knew the local primary school, adjacent to the church, were looking to do something similar. So, he came up with a plan that involved the church and the school sharing a biomass boiler, with pipes extending to both that would deliver a heating system to make chilly congregations and expensive energy bills a distant memory.

One of beauties of the plan, of which there were many, was the fact that the school needed energy in the daytime during the week and the church predominantly in the evenings and at weekends, so the system would never be over-loaded.

However, the work would be expensive and the hurdles multiple. One such hurdle was the necessity to take up the pews and flooring of a medieval grade 1 listed building, which meant involving the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC)

“It was a big ask and there was a bit of hesitancy to start with,” says Stephen. “However, we were able to give the reassurance that the disruption to the fabric of the building would be minimal and, as it happened, we uncovered a lot that was either rotten, unsafe or close to being so – as you would expect from a cold, damp, 800-year-old building.”

Thankfully, the school were awarded a grant from British Gas and, after a few negotiations, a lot of effort from the churchwardens, Barbara Crowle and Pam Thurlow, and many generous community fundraising initiatives, it was agreed that the biomass boiler could be installed and the work went ahead.

Today, St Wenn not only offers a warm welcome, but a fantastic space that the school and wider community regularly use for concerts, drama, clubs and events. “None of it would have been possible,” says Stephen, “if the whole community had not pulled together, rolled up their sleeves and pooled talents, resources and sheer determination to see the project all the way through.”

Green Building AwardsStephen’s tenacity so impressed the Diocese that he now sits on the same board, DAC, that he worked with to make the project happen, advising other churches on how they too can have a green make-over. “Get a biomass boiler!” is Stephen’s standard response – plus perhaps a committed community, an uninhibited imagination and a desire to bring about that global change with a local solution.

The results of the award will be announced in Lambeth on October 16, 2017 – while Stephen is there, maybe he could size-up Bishop Tim’s new place of work for a green make-over.