The National Church Awards – the ‘BAFTAs for churches’ – revealed 17 UK churches as winners in a prestigious ceremony held on Monday evening at Mercers’ Hall, London.
The awards were co-presented by comedian and actor Hugh Dennis and Canon Ann Easter, former Chaplain to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with Guest of Honour His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO, Vice Patron of the National Churches Trust.
Co-presenter Hugh Dennis opened the ceremony by saying: “Churches have an amazing story to tell. They are some of our most beautiful and historically important places – they literally hold the history of this country. Just as importantly they are there day-in day-out, providing vital help to local people and communities and available whenever they are needed. But they need help.
“With the future of many uncertain and under threat, there has never been a more important time to celebrate the UK’s churches and their importance. The nominations this year have been fantastic. All offer wonderful community support, open up their buildings and become places of pilgrimage and tourism alongside their role as places of Christian worship. We’ve seen old buildings steeped in heritage and new buildings designed for modern use.”
The awards given to Llangunnor Parish Church, Carmarthenshire was the Nayler Awards for Excellence in Church Maintenance. This church won in both the Wales category and as the overall UK winner.
Picking up the award on the night on behalf of the church team were Jackie James and Cyril Phillips.
In the awards programme, the church was described as “on a hill overlooking Tywi valley a mile from the town of Carmarthen stands a church with a panoramic view of the valley, whose volunteers pride themselves in creating a team which supports each other as well as the church. Not much seems to phase them and the judges loved that they have brought together such a devoted group of people, who give so freely of their time and expertise.”
This comment from the church’s awards submission particularly impressed the judges: “The friendship of our group of wonderful people, promoting a can do attitude whatever challenges appear, has come into sharp focus. It’s good to get back to having a good Welsh cwtch (hug).”
In presenting the award to Llangunnor Parish Church, Canon Ann Easter said: “The judges loved that this church is very well organised, their maintenance plan is spot on, and very detailed. The judges would like to congratulate them on their ability to make use of clearly generous volunteers and their time. They also loved the way the application is written and the positive way they talk about volunteers and how much they value them.”
Other Welsh churches honoured with awards were:
- Denbighshire, Trefnant, Holy Trinity, for Church and Community Volunteer Awards in partnership with the Marsh Charitable Trust.
- Denbighshire, Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd, St Peter, for Church Tourism: Open for Visitors Awards
Also honoured in Wales were four further finalists:
- Anglesey, Llanbadrig, St Patrick, for Church Tourism
- Ceredigion, Llanfihangel y Creuddyn, St Michael, for Church Tourism
- Conwy, Llannefydd, St Nefydd & St Mary, for Church Tourism
- Wrexham County Borough, Wrexham, Bethel Garden Village, for Church Volunteer
Gareth Simpson, Support Officer for Wales/Cymru for the National Churches Trust, said:
“I was delighted to see seven churches from Wales listed among the finalists. What a brilliant testimony to how churches in Wales are opening their doors to visitors and supporting their local communities. Congratulations to the three Welsh churches who are now revealed as among the winners: Llangunnor Parish Church, in Carmarthenshire, on their Maintenance award (gaining Overall Winner in this category too), and our two Denbighshire winners: St Peter in Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd (for their Tourism award) and Holy Trinity in Trefnant (for their Volunteer award). I hope people will celebrate all the Welsh finalists and take part in Visit Your Finalist Day – Sat 18 November.”