We look at how two groups in our diocese are successfully reaching out to their communities. Making a 'bigger difference'.
Rev. Laura Leatherbarrow from the East Widnes Team tells us about 'The Sanctuary’, a group that has been set up for all the people in the local community to meet and find a safe space.
“We are here for the lonely, the depressed, the bereaved, the single mum on her own, those who have trouble getting to places due to disability. We have disabled facilities and many from the local Scope come each week. Our oldest member is 82 and youngest is 2! We have a number of young mums who come and many are just in need of support and care.”
A warm welcome awaits. “We have tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc and snacks such as toasted teacakes, cakes (including gluten free). Halton MIND workers are present to support anyone with mental health needs. Crafts and mindfulness activities are provided for those who wish to do something, and we also have scrabble and dominos which goes down well with the men. Guest speakers are invited to the group, next week we will have an alcohol advice nurse coming in to give us advice and support for those who need it. The following week we are using UV pens with PC Simon who will mark up for free people’s property for them.”
Laura explains how the #Lovethyneighbour project came about:
“We decided as group that we would try and share and do something fun and practical for our community and we have collected scarves most brand new, still with labels attached, and one of the group has crocheted the huge one on our tree outside St Ambrose church. A number of the group made the labels which state ‘Take if you need me, but if you don’t then know you are loved.’ We have placed these in plastic bags to keep the rain off them and on the front is a little heart and poem on the back of the note is The sanctuary's details. The Group wanted to send a message out to our community that we are here for them. We want to support them and we wanted to help those who were out in this cold weather with something practical.
The great thing as well is the group wanted to show others that they love this local community and some with mental health problems found going out and doing this helped them feel needed by society and improved their mood too. Those who don't need them see them and love the thought and idea. Its faith in action at its best. People in this community have been cheered up and we are spreading a little happiness on the way!
Tracy Dickenson is a member of the community who has found The Sanctuary has brought great enrichment to her life since she started attending group meetings. Tracey said:
"If you told me 6 months ago I would be sharing love and kindness to others like this I couldn't imagine me doing it. I was so depressed and The Sanctuary has really helped me to see a way forward. I now love helping other people as you cannot know how good it makes you feel. I love this group it’s literally become my Sanctuary. Rev Laura is the light, hope and heart of the group. I hope many come to join us, and I hope many find the scarves a gift in a dark world."
Places of Welcome
St.Mary’s Church, Great Sankey is throwing its doors open to all those in its local community through its participation in the nationwide Places of Welcome scheme. The church started the initiative on 1st March this year.
Places of Welcome is a network of small community organisations, including faith communities, who offer an unconditional welcome to local people. The primary aim of the Places of Welcome network is that “Every neighbourhood has places where all people feel safe to belong, connect and contribute.”
While Places of Welcome began in Birmingham, it is now developing further afield, as people respond to the challenge to make our cities and neighbourhoods more welcoming.
The network has developed a set of guiding principles, key elements of a Place of Welcome which are known as the 5P's:
Place: An accessible and hospitable building, open at the same time every week.
People: Open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation, and staffed by volunteers.
Presence: A place where people actively listen to one another.
Provision: Offering free refreshments (at least a cup of tea and a biscuit) and basic local information.
Participation: Recognises that every person coming to a Place of Welcome will bring talents, experiences and skills that they might be willing to share locally.
Speaking of the initiative, the Pioneer Team Rector for West Warrington Church, Rev. Jeremy Tear said: “I am delighted that St.Mary’s is supporting this initiative to welcome those in our community into our church. I am particularly grateful to Warrington Borough Council for awarding us a local Area Grant Fund to support this project. I hope that this will prove to be a great blessing to those in our community who would value the opportunity to have a regular place to meet and perhaps share their gifts and skills with the community.”
TAKE THIS SCARF
The note with the scarf reads:
Rich or poor a Scarf please take,
Cold at a bus stop till your bones do ache?
Left yours at school and feeling cold?
Out of a night all alone?
Then take the scarf and please feel warm
And know as you do that love is born! Raise a smile and then a wave,
to those who pass and feel the Same!