‘Beacons of hope’: Lancashire parish churches rally ahead of potential winter of discontent
Parish churches the length and breadth of the county are providing a wide range of support schemes for local people in potentially-vulnerable communities, with their efforts in aiding the less fortunate at a time of severe financial pressure labelled a ‘beacon of hope’ by the Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff.
"At the centre of everything is Jesus, who calls us to service in times of need and particularly to serve the most vulnerable who require the most help,” says the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev. Dr Jill Duff. “The work of our parishes to support people in their local areas is the very definition of our diocesan vision to be healthy churches transforming communities.
“They are beacons of hope in an increasingly challenging world, providing everything from warm places to sit and chat, to meals, foodbanks, financial advice through CAP Debt Centres, and much more,” adds the Bishop.
At St Matthew the Apostle in Burnley, the church has quickly responded to the shocking increase in the number of people getting in touch saying they don’t even have enough money to turn the heating and lights in their house in by teaming up with a local charity to raise funds for those in fuel poverty.
“We've teamed up with West End Community Centre to raise money for families and vulnerable adults who are experiencing fuel poverty,” says Rev. Kat Gregory-Witham of St Matthew the Apostle. “We’re aiming to raise £1,000 so we can help local people be able to turn on their oven on Christmas Day. Please help by donating online if you can.”
St Thomas' Church in Garstang is offering local people use of communal ‘warm space’ on Monday morning from 9:30-11:30am during their regular food bank opening time which gives people the chance to have a hot meal and play games such as chess and dominoes.
Further south, St John's in Whittle-le-Woods and Clayton Brook Community churches have started a ‘Warm Welcome’ scheme every Monday from 9am-5pm, providing free hot drinks, toast, and soup to local residents who may be struggling this winter. Having applied for funding for the initiative, they have yet to receive a reply, but the service is set to continue thanks to the efforts of their 16-strong team of volunteers.
Finally, St Cuthbert's in Fulwood, Preston meanwhile is exploring different support options, including a ‘Renew Well-being’ space, which is a cafe drop-in with weekly hobby and activity groups.
"We'll partner with a mental health professional from the local council or other suitable organisation to ensure good inclusive practices for safe spaces,” says Rev. Mark Bradford of St. Cuthbert’s. “We’re also looking at a community lunch on a Wednesday after our toddler group [for] people of all ages and backgrounds [to] provide a good, affordable meal in a warm and welcoming environment."