Queen honours local volunteer with British Empire Award

In this year’s New Year’s Honours, Sarah Lee was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) from the Queen for services which she gave over several years to senior citizens and young people of Oundle. The nomination came as a surprise to Mrs Lee, who did not know that her name had been put forward for the award.

The British Empire Medal is awarded for sustained and creditable charitable or voluntary activity. Over eight years, Mrs Lee developed ministries for older people in Oundle and local villages through St Peter’s Church.

She created the Senior Adults Growing and Exploring ministries (SAGE) which were used to deepen connections between older community members and the church.

Mrs Lee’s motivation to begin working with senior members of the community began when she first moved to Oundle, joining older people for the market day Holy Communion and coffee every Thursday morning.

“I began to realise that many lived on their own and would enjoy meeting more often, so in 2011 with the help of some friends from the church we started the Tuesday Club,” Mrs Lee said. The club grew from a handful of people to around 30, with a team of volunteers who helped bake cakes and make the tea, and drove people to and from the club.

Mrs Lee initiated the Monday Munch Club in a partnership with Oundle Primary School and volunteers from the church and town. The school provided the hall space, whilst the kitchen team from Kingswood Catering cooked lunch for up to 100 guests at a time. The club focused on bringing senior members of the community and children together, with the school children performing songs and playing instruments.

“It was great in bringing an intergenerational community together in a warm and friendly way. We all hope it can start up again when Covid restrictions allow.”

The big summer holiday event, Holiday at Home ran annually from 2014 to 2019. It included a morning of workshops, lunch and afternoon concerts followed by tea and cakes.

“This one-day themed holiday extravaganza for older people was very popular. Everyone hopes it will return.” 

Additionally, Mrs Lee started short courses throughout the year to discuss topics, explore Advent and Lent and to generally look more deeply at faith.

“The SAGE ministries has been left in good hands, with different people running the different areas that started up whilst I was there.”

For the last two years Mrs Lee and her husband have been training for ordination at Trinity College, Bristol. After the work Mrs Lee did with younger and older people, she felt as though she wanted to continue full-time.

“I think I had been called to ministry for some time, but only faced up to the reality of this when my youngest child was in her last few years at school. I finally gained the confidence I needed to step out in faith, through the encouragement of Rev Stephen Webster and Rev Jema Ball at St Peter’s Church,” she said.

After their ordination at Peterborough Cathedral, the Lees will go to Kingsthorpe Team Ministry in north Northampton to be full time curates for three years.

“It’s exciting to be starting afresh in a new church setting and helping them develop their ministry to the community in this new location for us.”

Priyanka Menon
May 2021