17 November 2011
Unsung Christian heroes recognised at parliamentary awards ceremony
Unsung Christian heroes from across the UK were recognised for their community work at the Houses of Parliament yesterday as the 2011 Inspire Award winners were announced.
The winners were chosen from a list of more than 120 nominations submitted for this year's awards ceremony, which is organised by Inspire magazine and the Evangelical Alliance, and celebrated annually at a special ceremony hosted by Christian MPs.
This year's winners were chosen from three categories: an individual who is an inspirational role model, a church that is making a dynamic impact in its community, and a Christian-run project serving its local area.
Inspire magazine's editor Russ Bravo said of the awards: "It's been a privilege to find out about the way ordinary people are putting their faith in action in extraordinary ways. We're committed to telling these kinds of inspirational stories of Christians making life better for local communities, and the Inspire Awards is a great showcase for that."
Paul Slide, chief executive of CPO, said: "Hearing the practical difference Christians are making at grassroots level is a huge encouragement, and genuinely inspirational. These award winners are just the tip of the iceberg - we're looking forward to seeing a whole lot more local heroes in the future."
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, added: "It was truly humbling and inspiring to meet all the individuals, and representatives of churches and organisations doing amazing work in their local communities, to hear their stories and to celebrate with them. As Christians, we are passionate about community transformation. These fantastic, innovative projects being run up and down the UK are feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and restoring the broken. They are just some examples of how Christians are doing great things."
The winners are:
Christine Deponio, who runs Emmanuel House in Gateshead, a free service to those suffering with terminal cancer. Despite being blind and a full-time carer to her husband, who is also blind, she single-handedly fundraises for the project, which she set up in 2003. The project offers free lunches and physical therapy services such as massages, hair and nail care. Christine also owns three properties in the country that she lets cost-free to cancer patients and their families.
Christine said: "It was a huge surprise, it really was. I'm just doing what God wants me to do. They need someone to be here, to cry with, to laugh with, to share their hope with. That's where I come in."
Lifeline Church, Essex, run Open Doors, a project for vulnerable and isolated women. The project was set up over 10 years ago and, by providing access to consistent friendship and a caring community, has given hope and freedom to countless women. Healthcare professionals working in the NHS mental health services regularly refer patients to Open Doors, recognising the vital role the project plays.
Sally Dixon of Open Doors said: "It's been a real surprise to get this award. We just feel like we are doing the work that God has given us to do. It's really exciting to see somebody who's been isolated come out of their isolation and find a place of belonging in the church family."
Green Pastures, Southport, started when Pastor Pete Cunningham and other church members bought a pair of flats to house and care for two homeless couples. In 2005 the local authority recognised the significance of Green Pastures when it announced that there were no longer any long-term rough sleepers in Southport. Today Green Pastures houses more than 200 formerly homeless people.
Pete Cunningham said: "As well as caring for their physical needs we are sometimes given the privilege of leading our tenants to Jesus. In the last few years, 27 came to faith, 19 were baptised and 32 are attending local churches."
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Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.