A Lancashire church is celebrating receiving a £5000 windfall after winning a national photography contest – ‘Parish Pixels’ – run by Ecclesiastical Insurance.
The image of a group of volunteers from Freedom Church, Mereside, in Blackpool pausing to reflect while clearing a derelict church hall they hope to call their new home won out over 600 other entries from across the country.
Freedom Church had already received £1500 for becoming the North West regional finalist earlier this year and the whole congregation has been eagerly awaiting the final results ever since. The announcement celebration event highlights and a short additional video about the work of Freedom Church can be found here on the Ecclesiastical website. In the announcement video, the first prize section begins at 4m 02s.
The picture was submitted to the Parish Pixels contest by Rev Linda Tomkinson from Freedom Church. The winning snap was taken by churchwarden, Amanda Garwood, who is also mother of the two children in the photo - Raven and Willow. Amazingly, Amanda received her Bachelor of Arts in Photography degree from The University of Lancaster’s Blackpool and the Fylde College on the same day the competition winners were announced!
Parish Pixels was launched last summer, inviting Anglican churches in England, Wales and Scotland to capture the essence of their church in a single snapshot, accompanied by a one-sentence caption. More than 600 entries were submitted ranging from pictures of people, places, features, and artefacts.
The winning image captured a moment where volunteers from the church took a well-deserved break from clearing out the hall which they hope to move into.
Freedom Church was born out of the closure of St Wilfrid’s Church on Blackpool’s Mereside Estate. Initially services were held in Linda’s home before moving into a council-owned building.
The popularity of the church has meant it has outgrown that facility, so Linda and her team have been busy raising much needed funds to renovate and reopen the old church hall, which has been derelict for years.
Linda said: “We are delighted to have won this national competition. The prize money is very welcome of course, as we are raising money to renovate the Freedom Centre to open it as a place of worship and a community centre for the benefit of the residents of the Mereside Estate.
“But for us, it's more about raising awareness of what is possible if people just use their imagination, think outside the box and trust God for the growth of their churches, it's incredible what can be achieved when people do those things!
Linda added: “Our approach was summed up in the caption for the picture we submitted, which said: ‘We may not have our own church building and we may live in an area of deprivation, but we believe that it doesn’t matter where you meet to worship God, as long as you meet to worship God’.”
“We’ve raised £75,000 to repair the roof but the inside will cost a further £240,000. So this prize money is really significant for us and will support furthering the mission of Freedom Church in Mereside on the estate.”
Photographer and Churchwarden, Amanda Garwood, added: “I'm absolutely buzzing. I am so pleased that we have been able to raise awareness with this picture of what our church family is trying to achieve on our estate. The £5,000 prize money will make a huge difference to our church. We’ve done it as a team and I’m super proud.”
Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical, said: “The response to the competition was fantastic and we received many incredible images showing the diverse range of people, places and features that make Anglican churches so special.
“I’d like to thank everyone who took the opportunity to showcase their churches, and especially to all of the winners. Congratulations to them, and especially to the overall national winner Freedom Church in Blackpool. They showed us the impact the church can have in our local communities.”