Boosting spirits in Paignton

As the UK continues to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic response, and growing concerns over energy security and inflation, mental health issues are also spiralling.

A series of reports from the government1, the Health and Safety Executive2, and charities including the Samaritans and Mind3 have revealed an explosion in anxiety, depression, and suicide exacerbated by lockdowns and financial worry.

It’s worst in poorer areas – and it’s against this distressing backdrop that the team at Paignton Baptist Church is reaching out to those in need of support with mental health and wellbeing in their local community, recently named the second most-deprived part of Devon4 in the Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Helped by the Baptist Grants Programme, Pioneer Minister Debbie Onslow and others at the Winner Street church first developed a Renew Psalm 23 Garden project – which is attracting green-fingered gardeners aged from six to their mid-eighties – and then a Renew Hobby Group.

Each aims to introduce isolated people struggling to cope with life to prayer and more within the life of the church and to boost their self-esteem and confidence whilst maintaining the wellbeing of church members generally.

‘Both involve a rhythm of prayer and hospitality,’ said Debbie, a Speech and Language Therapist who was drawn to the church after retiring. ‘The funding helped with garden plants and equipment, and we’re slowly creating a reflective space where it is OK not to be OK.

‘Part of the money has also helped create a versatile space where others can see transparent prayer and worship and join in when ready. Alongside this there has been one-to-one work for individuals to give them the confidence to take part.

‘A number are now considering baptism and membership and we’ve seen family members joining the activities too.

‘We’re trying to help those on the margins of society make friends and feel worthy, and the signs are really promising. We’re not a huge church, but we’re full of life and we have a strong future, and we’re so grateful to the Baptist Grants Programme for helping make it all happen.’

Over £2 million has been given out in grants over the past ten years to Baptist causes.

‘The work in Paignton is inspirational. The funding is helping us to slowly create a reflective space where it's OK to not be OK’

Anne Bishop, Chair of the Baptist Insurance Company Grants Committee