Diocese of Portsmouth

    Churchyard revamp helps Ventnor community

    19 Aug. 2019

    AN Isle of Wight churchyard has been landscaped to provide more space for the local community to use.

    The £60,000 revamp at St Catherine's Church in Ventnor included the creation of a community garden for outdoor worship and social events; a meditative area; and a place where ashes can be interred and bereaved families can reflect and pray.

    It was the third of a three-phase project to open up the church to the local community - the first two phases involved re-developing the exterior and interior of the Victorian building. Bishop Christopher will dedicate the new churchyard on September 1.

    The graves in the churchyard are all more than 120 years old, and many had become overgrown by grass or vegetation, or the inscriptions had become hard to read. The known descendants of those buried there were contacted and allowed some of the gravestones to be cleaned up and moved, if necessary.

    The new place of quiet reflection on the north-west side of the churchyard now provides a place where people's ashes can be interred, and their families can spend time in quiet reflection and prayer. Two benches will be added to this area for visitors. 

    A separate area near the west wall has also been cleared and new turf has been laid to create a community garden. It can be used for outdoor events, including this summer's Ventnor Fringe Festival, during which it played a pivotal role. Musicians were able to perform outside and cream teas served in this space. It also hosted a reading group during the summer - more than 100 children visited over a week in which they were entertained by talented readers.

    Parking spaces in the churchyard have also been marked out properly, as cars previously parked in a haphazard fashion. A vintage bus, which carries thousands of books, was parked in one of the spaces during Ventnor Fringe, and visitors were able to select books to sit and read in the churchyard.

    The vicar, the Rev Hugh Wright, said: "One of the things we wanted to emphasise was that the church is not just for those who have died, but also for the living. That was the thinking behind the three phases of our development - to preserve the outside of the building, to revamp the inside, so that it can be used for a variety of community activities, and to re-develop the churchyard.

    "This enhanced churchyard can now be used by people as a focal point for worship, community activities, prayer and reflection. It also works well alongside our Hub Coffee Shop - a cafe inside the church that is open each day for visitors."

    The £60,000 landscaping project was funded by the church, the local community and through lottery funding.

    The Rev Hugh Wright in the space where ashes are interred and where relatives can spend time in prayer and reflection
    An aerial view of the revamped churchyard, with the community garden to the left and the meditative area and reflective garden to the right
    Cream teas in the community garden during Ventnor Fringe
    Musicians play in the community garden during Ventnor Fringe

    Bishop Christopher will formally dedicate the new churchyard at a special service on September 1, after the parish's regular Cafe Church service. The dedication service will take place from 12.30pm, and will be led by the bishop and the vicar. Town councillors, festival organisers, ecumenical partners and other community leaders have been invited.

    The regular Café Church service that precedes it involves cafe-style tables and chairs being laid out throughout the nave, something that wouldn't have been possible before the Phase 2 development of its interior. It has already been going for a couple of years and the last such service attracted 100 people.

    The service, which starts at 10.45am on September 1 will be led by the parish's new Reader, Nicola Pinnock, on the theme of 'gardens' and breakfast will be served.

    St Catherine

    Church Street Ventnor, PO38 1SW

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