A city church has opened a wall of remembrance to pay tribute to the lives lost during the coronavirus pandemic and to support grieving families.
The wall at Swanbank Church in Burslem was unveiled by Port Vale owner Carol Shanahan and Stoke North MP Jonathan Gullis.
It was designed by artistic congregation members Phoebe Boden, 22, and Alice Wright, 18.
Anyone who has experienced loss in recent times, whether due to coronavirus or other reasons, can visit the display and add the names of their lost loved ones.
They can then take home a crocheted forget-me-not flower which features a message of support and an invitation to a memorial service for those they have lost – when it is safe to hold it.
Now the Swanbank Church team have been nominated for an Our Heroes Award in the Community Group category for their work throughout the pandemic.
Reverend Kathryn Stephens said: “Under the current circumstances we have been unable to hold normal funerals. It has been heartbreaking to see families unable to comfort each other. For people who are grieving at the moment, it’s even more difficult. So I had the idea for a wall of remembrance.
“Swanbank Church wants to stand alongside all those grieving and one of the ways we can do this is by providing a practical and creative way of helping people who might be bereaved, to remember those family or friends they have lost.
I’m so proud of Phoebe and Alice, two of our young people at church, who have used their artistic skills to make this idea of a community memorial a reality.
“We are inviting people to come and write the name of a loved one who has passed away and then they are invited to take away a crocheted forget-me-not, which have all been handmade by local people.”
Kathryn and the Swanbank team are encouraging residents from all over the city to come and pay their respects if they wish.
“This is very much for the whole community rather than just a church thing. We are very well placed geographically, so a lot of people will be able to view and engage with the display.
“But it’s not just for Burslem, we are inviting anyone from anywhere in the city who has lost a loved one – and not just through coronavirus.
“We have had such an amazing response so far and there are already so many names on there. We want to have this space as a place where loved ones can be remembered. This is Swanbank’s way of standing alongside people – we stand with them in their grief.”
The wall of remembrance is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the church has responded to the coronavirus outbreak.
Kathryn explained: “As a church we haven’t been totally closed, because we are classed as a social outreach. We have the foodbank here and our closed children’s centre has become the midwife surgery.
“As a church we look after and pick up those in need and have been delivering food parcels and phoning those who may be lonely.”
The church has been posting videos of services on social media and Kathryn has been doing a weekly virtual bible study.
Kathryn added: “We can reach up to 2,000 people on some of our videos, from all over the world. We have a lady from Italy who always watches and sends us a message.
“We are very lucky that as a church we are quite tech-savvy. It means that more people can be involved in what we do.”
Kathryn is keen to hear from anyone who is able to crochet more forget-me-nots for grieving families.
Readers who want to make a nomination for the Our Heroes Awards should email firstname.lastname@example.org with Our Heroes in the subject box.