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Reaching Out in Prayer, Faith & Hope

Ministers and volunteers at St Andrew’s Church Dibden Purlieu are looking to the future with a bold and innovative Prayer Garden and Chapel Project.

Based in the Waterside area opposite Southampton, the parish has kick-started its ‘Project Refresh’ initiative by installing three sets of raised beds and benches on its front lawn, next to the bus stop and the busy Beaulieu Road, the main entryway into Dibden Purlieu. Phase One of Project Refresh also includes a brand-new seating area, complete with decorative wooden fence, outside the Coffee House, again next to Beaulieu Road.

Next, as you might imagine, the roof needs to be fixed. Alongside that, the two exterior walls facing the car park are also to be refreshed, with new fascias and windows. And this is where the Chapel Project starts to come into its own.

To date, the Chapel has been accessed purely from the church space, with a door in the side of the main church building, or a passageway from the foyer. The new plans include not only new windows, but new heating and a trifold door in the middle of the exterior wall, leading outside to a new interactive prayer space.

Many parishes and monastic communities have spiritual gardens as a place of tranquillity and peace, with an atmosphere of reflection and calm. St Andrew’s is not typical in its approach, in that the prayer garden will be accessible directly from the front car park.

A hedge across the car park side of the garden will provide some hush and privacy and plans for the garden include raised beds and seating, a water feature, a labyrinth, and even a mature olive tree. There is talk of involving local young people in maintaining the grounds.

Already, a local NHS practitioner has offered his advice on a possible mental health aspect of ministry, and the Waterside House of Prayer that convenes monthly at St Andrew’s is excited about the future of their group’s main base.

Rector Peter Toller says, “We’re looking at making the Chapel into a multi-purpose space, one that can be used for drop-ins, events, prayer space or creative worship sessions. ‘Refresh’ is very much what we’re about, not just for ourselves but for the community that surrounds us.

“Mental health is very much a going concern among young people and those who have been affected by the pandemic. We hope to offer support to those who need a listening ear, or access to professional advice and support.”

Convenors of the House of Prayer, Peter and Helen Burch say, “We are so excited about what this project could be. We have prayed for years to have a base where the churches can come together to reach out through prayer with intercession, times of devotion and healing, ministering with the love of God to the Waterside community”.

Peter Toller adds, “We wanted to open our doors, and now we’re opening up the wall! There is so much hurt and pain in our world. We want to hold out Jesus as the one who can bring healing and peace.”

by Michael Ford


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