Why bother to travel to the south coast of England, indeed beyond the coast, and on to an island to see a shed that isn’t there – and in fact a shed that has never been there!? Well, that’s what Lynne and I were invited to do during our tour of Wessex, to take a detour to visit our church on Hayling Island.
What we found was a group of men with vision, determination, passion and perseverance. Members of Hayling Island URC, having recognised that men often find it difficult to talk through their issues, and chat freely with other men, that in retirement can easily withdraw into a solitary life. They had heard of the Men’s Shed Movement, began researching it, and so, a Men’s Shed Group was born.
Men’s Sheds began in Australia in the 1990s but soon spread to Europe and North America. There are now many in the UK, some connected with local churches. Here is what the organisation says about itself: “At the Shed we learn from each other, mainly about how to do things but also about life. We have benches and tools we never thought we would have. We reuse materials and mend the broken; we make things we are proud of and we learn from each other. We are more active than we were and are engaged with our projects, we have more to talk about, more to contribute and more friends. We are out of the house (not under our partner’s feet) and happier when at home.”
This is the positive, supportive group of men we found – a group not made up of just church members, as the project soon attracted men who shared the vision, and were determined to get involved and see a shed built. It would take all their commitment, skills and teamwork to plan and design, consult with the church and council, as well as an amazing ability to promote their project in the community to gain the goodwill of everyone and generate vital funding (raising over £4000 so far).
Meanwhile, over the months and years, the men would meet in the church rooms, as though meeting in a shed, week by week, offering fellowship and support, developing crafts, training each other, growing in numbers (now more than 40 members), and raising their profile in the town. In the church magazine is a quotation from St. Paul and I would certainly want to use it in relation to the “Shedders” to encourage and support them in their ministry – “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-6