Churches throw open doors to offer food and warmth

    29 Nov. 2022

    CHURCHES across our diocese are stepping up to help those struggling financially this winter. They’ve thrown open their doors to offer food, company and warm spaces to those affected by the rising cost of living.

    Families who are struggling with energy bills and people who live on their own can pop into their local church. They can stay warm, be given something to eat and be given some practical support.

    In some, this involves inviting people to a coffee morning or café that already exists. In others, something new has been created to help those struggling with rising prices and mortgage costs. Often our churches are working in partnership with other community groups.

    Christ Church, Sandown, is working with Sandown Town Council to provide a warm space for locals between 11am and 3pm on Mondays during the winter months. The church has opened weekly from October 31, with volunteers providing support and hot soup. Around a dozen people come each week.

    The vicar, the Rev Mark Williams, said: “We recognise the rise in the cost of living, and the pressures on families and individuals, and are grateful for the support of the town council to provide a warm space for those that need it.”

    And the town’s Mayor, Paddy Lightfoot, said: “We have secured matched funding from the Isle of Wight Council, and thank the church for providing hot drinks, soup and socialisation for residents faced with rising energy bills and food costs.”

    And St John’s Church, Ryde, is offering a welcoming warm space each Thursday from 12:30pm to 4pm. Worshippers there can provide hot soup and rolls, hot drinks, activities for children and adults, and information about local organisations.

    Among other island churches offering warm hubs are St Mary’s, Carisbrooke, and Newport Minster. St Mary’s church hall is open from 10am to 12noon on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Newport parish centre opens from 10am to 12noon on Fridays. Free refreshments are available at both venues.

    St Faith’s Church in Havant launched its warm hub last month, providing home-made bread and soup, cakes and hot drinks inside the nearby Pallant Centre, just off North Street. It opened initially on Mondays from 12noon-2pm, with volunteers available to chat, free Wifi and charging points, and some games and books available.

    Among those attending was Grainne Rason, who has recently retired from working in a local school. She said: “When you retire from work, you do lose those connections that you had in the staff room and so on. It’s harder to make those connections with others, so it’s good to have this available.”

    Centre manager Shelley Saunders said: “If you go into a coffee shop, it can be £3 or more for a coffee and people can’t always afford that. We have a rota for making the soup, bread and cake, and offer it all for free, with hot drinks. We even have comfortable sofas where you can settle down with a book.”

    There’s also a space for people to donate surplus clean, good quality coats, hats, gloves and scarves. Those donations can then be made to anyone in the community who needs winter clothing.

    St Faith’s is working alongside other churches in Havant, which are offering warm spaces on other days of the week. St Alban’s Church, West Leigh is open on Tuesdays from 10:30am to 1pm, St Joseph’s RC Church in Havant is open on Thursdays at 6:30pm for a free meal. On a Friday, people can go to St Nicholas Church, Bedhampton, from 10:30am to 12:30pm, while on a Saturday, Havant URC is open from 10:30am to 1pm.

    Worshippers at St Matthew’s Church, Bridgemary, are aiming to keep the doors of their church open as often as possible for those struggling with rising energy bills or buying food.

    Its new community café, St Matt’s on the Corner, is open from Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30am to 1:30pm, offering hot drinks, cakes, breakfast and lunch. The café is also open from 1:30pm to 3pm on a Tuesday for ‘Reignite’ – where visitors can knit, sew and create over a free cuppa and cake.

    The church also provides free food for families who are hungry after school on Wednesdays, and runs ‘Muddy Church’ sessions on Saturday mornings, which gives children breakfast and the chance to plant and tend vegetables.

    Vicar the Rev Samantha Martell said: “Because our church building is open throughout the week, it acts as a welcoming community centre for people who might never come to a Sunday service.We also have shelves of food that we give away, and a selection of clothes for anyone who needs them. Plus, if we have more volunteers, we could open for even longer.”

    And Hart Plain Church is also opening its building for those affected by soaring energy bills and rising food costs. They’ve earmarked a Wednesday morning as a good time to welcome people. They have a group that meets in the church for a coffee morning anyway from 10am to 12noon. There are hot drinks and activities for those who need a bit of company.

    They launched their warm space in November, and are now offering some other activities such as table tennis and chess.

    The deacon-in-charge, the Rev Kate Macfarlane, said: “For many people living in our communities, it’s going to be tough winter. We know that in the area served by Hart Plain Church there are many people who are worried about how they and their wider families will cope.

    “If we’re heating our church building anyway – thanks to the generosity of those who worship here – then it doesn’t matter if there are 10 people in the building or 100. So we’re happy to fling open our doors to those in need. The best way for us to get through difficult times is to work together, and support those most in need. We saw how that worked during the pandemic, and I was heartened to see how people in this area pulled together”

    They are working alongside Wecock Community Centre, which opened its doors as a warm space from 1:30pm to 3:30pm each Wednesday.

    And St Faith’s Church, Lee-on-the-Solent, has also opened up part of its parish centre as a warm space – every Wednesday from 10am to 5pm. There are free refreshments, including hot soup from 12noon, plus children's toys, all-age games and free Wifi. On February 8 and March 8, the centre will open from 12:30pm. More details are here.   

    Those who come to Hart Plain Church on a Wednesday can enjoy activities such as chess and table-tennis
    Christ Church Sandown opened its building to those who needed a warm space
    You can knit, natter and eat at the 'Reignite' weekly get-together at St Matthew's, Bridgemary

    Church of the Good Shepherd in Crookhorn has registered as a 'warm space' when its Bus Stop Café is open, between 7.30am-11am from Mondays to Fridays. Its café offers tea/coffee, cereal, toast, a bacon sarnie or a full English breakfast, and people pay what they can afford or nothing at all. They welcome everyone with a smile, a listening ear and a prayer if they want one. 

    The church is also open as a warm space when the Bus Stop Break opens in term-time from 2.30-4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Volunteers offer free hot chocolate and chocolate biscuits to the school children waiting at the bus stop. Anyone who needs a warm space is welcome to come into the café area for warmth and hot chocolate or coffee.

    St Michael’s and All Angels, Paulsgrove, is turning the church into a ‘Heat Hub’ every Monday and Friday through the winter, from 10am-4pm. It’s a free space, offering hot coffee, comfy seating, Wifi and board games in their Paulsgrove lounge. There’s also some after-school hot chocolate available.

    The church is also hosting a project called Fishcake Friday, run by the community benefit group St M’s events. London-based chef Louis Coward, who previously launched a 10-week food project called Meatball Mondays during the pandemic, has created this as a follow-up project.

    WIth help from the catering department of 12 Air Defence Regiment, based at Thorney Island, Louis and the team will make homemade fishcakes, box them up and give them away for free every Friday afternoon at the church until Christmas. All are welcome to pop in to collect some.

    Among other churches open as warm spaces in Portsmouth are:

    • St Aidan’s in Anchorage Park (weekdays, 9am-5pm);
    • St Cuthbert’s. Copnor (weekdays, 9am-5pm, including a community cafe from 10am-1.30pm staffed by volunteers);
    • St Margaret’s Church, Southsea (daily; community cafe open Thursday and Friday);
    • St Jude’s Church, Southsea (weekdays, 10am-12noon).

    The list of welcoming spaces in the city is being co-ordinated by Hive Portsmouth, on,uk.

    Christians Together in Fareham are working together to offer warm spaces throughout the week. Among the churches open are Holy Trinity Fareham, from 10am-12.30pm each Friday, and St John's Church, Fareham, from 10am-12noon each Tuesday. They'll provide hot drinks, newspapers, activities such as jigsaws and board games, and books to read.

    To the west of our diocese, the cafe space at St Mary and All Saints Church, Droxford - known as Wilfrid's Cafe - has also been registered as a warm space for people to come to. The cafe was created inside the historic building as part of a drive to make the church the hub of the local community.

    And the monthly cafe run by St Mary's Church, Warsash - Cafe Company  - is being extended in January and February to be twice a month. It will be open on January 11 and 25, February 8 and 22, and on March 8, from 10pm-1pm in the church hall. Bacon butties, cake, teas, coffee, hot chocolate and warm soup are available - plus cards, games and friendly conversation with volunteers.

    Meanwhile, the annual Christmas voucher campaign run by Churches Homeless Action has now kicked off. You can buy gift vouchers for stores such as Boots, Argos, Sainsbury’s or others, pop them into a Christmas card and bring them to St Mary’s Church, Fratton, between 10am-12noon on a weekday.

    They’ll be presented to local charities who work with needy families, survivors of domestic abuse and asylum seekers at a carol service on December 16. The vouchers will allow individuals the dignity of buying a Christmas gift they’d like. You can read more details about the campaign here.

    Our Head of Mission and Social Transformation, Canon Nick Ralph, has written to all parishes with suggestions of how they can help during this time of economic uncertainty.

    He has indicated where to find resources from organisations such as Christians Against Poverty, Community Money Advice, and the Churches Mutual Credit Union. You can find his advice here.

    And a national list of churches, libraries and community buildings hat are offering warm spaces can be found on

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