Each month we will be giving you the opportunity to learn more about the faces of our community, in a regular feature sharing the positive work of individuals, charities and organisations.
Faces of our Community will be released at the end of each month, with the Cathedral’s monthly E-Newsletter. For August we are joined by Ben Applin.
Ben is the Volunteer Co-ordinator at Stonepillow, a charity that supports and empowers homeless and vulnerable people to achieve sustainable independence and wellbeing.
The charity was formed in 1989 following a sermon given by the Reverend Hilary Parsons, concerning the death of an ex-Graylingwell patient in a public toilet in Chichester. The reaction amongst the congregation was very powerful and a meeting followed where 20 different churches were represented. Find out more on the Stonepillow website >>
Being born in Chichester, growing up locally around Bognor Regis and attending the Chichester Boys School, I have always had a large attachment and insight to our community life here on the South Coast.
At the age of 18, not knowing my place within our community, I first began my work life as a support worker for a local learning disability charity. I am forever thankful for this first opportunity as I was not only able to support the people that accessed the charity, but I developed my own life skills, became more grounded as a person, and developed a positive work ethic for the next decade of my life, moving into the coordination of the charity's community run project that over 130 people accessed.
Volunteers became a big thing for me as well as understanding their value within charities and organisations. Their own skill sets, the humour they brought to the role and love for those they supported, was such an inspirational and an invaluable asset, that I felt was underutilised and undervalued.
Wanting change, I saw the Volunteer Co-ordinator opportunity within Stonepillow, which was a real-life changing move for me. Taking responsibility for the volunteer program (which housed over 100 volunteers) was a large increase from the 10 I had previously built a relationship with who inspired me.
But an exciting change which I feel again I have personally gained and developed, and I even hope, the charity has benefited from as well!
Now coming to the ripe stage of my life as a certified 30 year old and having my own family, you begin slowing life down and looking less towards "life goals" but towards everyday living and enjoying that time you have with your family on a sensible work -life balance.
As Stonepillow works very closely with the Cathedral (As it was instrumental in Stonepillow's founding) I have become more acute to the Cathedral's role within the community. Not only supporting Stonepillow in multiple ways including hosting the Big Sleep Out, the Cathedral spend much of their time engaging with the community, local churches, businesses, community groups and schools to develop learning opportunities, community events and most importantly from the cathedral's perspective, being able to spread the good news of the gospels and be a source of hope.
Sharing our faith, joyfully and invitingly is part of the vision of the Cathedral. How do we go about this as Christians and also, why should the community care Very quickly we delve, into the big questions of life, trying to "convince" others that "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life". What does this even mean for our community?
Well, as a Christian, I find myself cringing when encounter preaching on the street, which I feel an alienate those that have not heard the good news before, hoping for a revelation in people's hearts. Wanting to share the good news of the gospels is a privilege we as Christians get, when the situation arises to be able to share joyfully and invitingly on a personal level.
At the end of Jesus's time on earth, he said “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" Matthew 7:12. In laymen's terms, "treat others as you want to be treated". A common behavioural trait we all in instil in our children, in the hope that our community will become an increasingly unified and harmonious place. Ultimately leading to fullness of life for all, with the hope that the Cathedral and surrounding churches can become this source of hope within our community.
If you are unsure of yourself, the focus of your life, experiencing a void of unhappiness you have or lack of peace. We invite you, welcomingly along, to explore an element of yourself you may have not experienced before that may fulfil you on a personal level and experience the love that Jesus gives willingly and freely in the gift of eternal life.
Ben Applin, Stonepillow Volunteer Coordinator