St Boniface Award Winners 2021 Are “An Inspiration”
An 89-year-old woman who has been volunteering and fundraising for her village church for over seven decades and an 18-year-old student who helped keep her church open during the pandemic are among the 16 recipients of this year’s St Boniface awards.
The winners, who were nominated from across Devon, will be admitted into the Company of St Boniface by the Bishop of Exeter in a special service at Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 19 June.
The annual awards, to recognise people from the Church of England who have gone above and beyond to serve their churches, church schools and communities, are named after the patron saint of Devon.
The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Rev’d Jackie Searle, was one of the awards judges and will be preaching at the service.
She said, “St Boniface is an inspiration, not least for his courage and perseverance in sharing the love of Christ with all, wanting the best for those he served.
“Receiving the award is a recognition of the courage and perseverance shown today, by people who demonstrate that same love of Jesus in their words and actions.
“All those receiving the award are an inspiration in their service of God and neighbour.”
Aileen Badcock, 89, became the sole remaining member of the congregation at St Swithun’s church in Littleham, North Devon, in the 1950s when the vicar “locked the building and left”, leaving the church in a badly delapidated state. She helped start a community fundraising effort and by the 1960s the church was thriving once more.
She has been a churchwarden and Sunday school leader there for over 30 years. She is still fundraising for the community, most recently by selling tea-towels in her front garden during lockdown, raising money for a new toilet for the church.
The Rev’d Marisa Cockfield, who nominated her, said “Aileen is greatly loved by her community. She inspires us to love each other and to work for God, I cannot think of a more worthy recipient.”
Many of this year’s nominees have been recognised for their work during the coronavirus pandemic, including 18-year-old Lizzy Flaherty, from Holsworthy parish church, who took on a number of roles in order to keep the church open when older volunteers were shielding. This included cleaning the entire church and helping out during services.
Several other award recipients were nominated for running foodbanks, school holiday food programmes and homeless services, providing much-needed support to their local communities.
Toby Grier is the youngest of the 2021 winners. At age 17, Toby has been proactive in volunteering for a range of church and secular organisations focusing on food poverty, fair trade issues and the environment.
Despite the difficulties of studying in and out of lockdown over the last year, Toby has continued to act on his passion for social and environmental justice and has done voluntary work for Devon Development Education, helping the organisation develop its social media and online presence. His work was particularly appreciated during Fairtrade Fortnight.
The Diocese of Exeter Church and Society Officer, Chris Keppie said, “Toby’s presentation on Guyana seemed to create the online equivalent of a standing ovation; subsequent chat reflected on the refreshing value of a younger voice, and desire for more of the same. “I hope it also brought new energy to long-term campaigners.”
Another winner, Katie Freeman is the new Chair of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NaTRE), the first time in 18 years a primary school teacher and early years specialist has been chosen for the role.
Katie said: “I am extremely touched that someone has taken the time to nominate me for this award and feel honoured to be receiving it. It is a real privilege to work at a Church of England School and to work within the RE community.”
Ben Slater, nominated for his work providing guidance and training on how to best support people with mental health challenges said, “Receiving this award is humbling and exciting.
“The nomination and award came out of the blue! For me, it is a real encouragement in terms of the recognition of the value of what we’ve quietly been doing during this hard chapter. I have been so heartened by the response of people doing the training and this award is such a blessing on top!”
During the awards service the recipients will be interviewed and will receive a medal from Bishop Robert as a sign of their admittance to the Company of St Boniface. Watch the service at 4pm on Saturday 19 June on the Diocese Facebook page.