Reflections on Mary’s Celebration Service at St Mary’s Church
There has been much to celebrate at Mary’s in the last year. The Big Lottery grant to not only maintain, but to hugely expand the work of the Youth Club. Plus, our Preschool is operating close to capacity, has received a Good report from OFSTED and enthusiastic responses from parents. The Holiday Playschemes have been oversubscribed, and an incredible variety of community groups continue to use Mary’s rooms. So it was great to have a Celebration Service at St Mary’s on Sunday 10 July 2016.
The service was led by Revd Simon Harvey, Vicar of St Mary’s. The Mayor of Islington, Councillor Kat Fletcher, attended with her Consort, Revd Melanie Toogood. Many members of Mary’s staff joined the St Mary’s congregation in worship and some participated in delivering the service, with Mary’s Child Services Manager, Sharon Ellis, reading from the Bible and Mary’s Trustee Ruth Ogier leading the prayers.
Another Trustee, Ian Mylam, preached from the Christian bible parable of the Good Samaritan. Ian pointed out one of the objects of Mary’s is to develop the capacity and skills of people that are socially and economically disadvantaged, in Islington and nearby, enabling those people to participate more fully in society. Ian reminded the congregation of the financial sacrifice made by members of St Mary’s Church in the 1970s, which led to the building of the Neighbourhood Centre to serve the local community, especially through the Youth Club. St Mary’s Church went on to formally establish the charity in 2008, to manage and develop the work in the community.
Ian further shared that in the 2000s three issues had led to St Mary’s church’s refocus of its service of the community, and the formal establishment of the charity. Firstly, government legislation to provide disabled access in all public buildings led to the Access for All project, which transformed the crypt and renovated the Neighbourhood Centre. Secondly, Islington Council decided to fund youth work by commissioning rather than by grant. Youth work was now required to produce specific outcomes in the lives of young people. It was a much more demanding environment. Thirdly, the primary management of all the community work by the church council, which by now included welcoming and hiring out space to community groups, was no longer sustainable as more resources of time and people were in demand.
Mary’s – or St Mary Islington Community Partnership (SMICP) as it was previously known – continues to be a charity reflecting the work of the church, which focuses on supporting the people of Islington and forming partnerships with its community.
Mary’s CEO Balazs Csernus said: “Mary’s mission is to be a beacon on Upper Street working together with the community to inspire and enable everyone to reach their full potential. There is a long way to go to achieve this mission. So in our manifesto we pledge ourselves to do all we can to help children, young people and communities. And of course we are not alone. Many people and organisations are working day in and day out to change things for the better in Islington.”