Diocese of Portsmouth

    Generous worshippers create happy Christmas for those in need

    4 Jan. 2024

    GENEROUS worshippers made it a happier Christmas this year for vulnerable people and those in need.

    Several of our churches provided festive food, threw Christmas parties or delivered hampers to those who might otherwise have gone without. It was a way of showing God's love to those who are vulnerable at this significant time of year.

    At Christ Church, Gosport, their weekly Kitchen Table offers hot meals to parents and children every Monday teatime, using food donated via the Trash Cafe. And for their final get-together before Christmas, volunteers also threw a Christmas party in the church itself. More than 100 parents and children enjoyed a generous buffet and a Christmas disco, provided by the Trash Cafe and sponsored by Gosport wholesalers P&J's.

    Volunteers also gave out more than 150 presents, plus stocking fillers and wrapping paper to families using funding raised by P&J's. That meant the parents could take away the presents and wrap them themselves.

    Worshippers then also delivered Christmas hampers to 30 vulnerable families on Christmas Eve. Each included two joints of meat and all the trimmings for a Christmas dinner. There was also a 'mum's gift bag' included, which consisted of toiletries, chocolates and a silky scarf - it was given to the children to hide under the tree for the mums, some of whom might not otherwise have received a gift. The hampers were funded by a generous donation from a couple in the Christ Church congregation.

    Meeting Father Christmas at Christ Church, Gosport
    The Christmas disco inside Christ Church, Gosport

    Villagers from Meonstoke, Droxford, Exton and Corhampton also helped 22 children who had lost their homes just before Christmas. Worshippers collected a large collection of toys from local families, with many of the donors being children themselves.

    A selection of the toys were blessed by Bishop Jonathan and his chaplain, the Rev Amanda Collinson, at a special service with some of the schoolchildren in St Andrew’s Church, Meonstoke. The toys were then taken to the Roberts Centre in Portsmouth and passed on to eight families who had been moved into temporary accommodation, after being forced to leave their homes just five days before Christmas.

    The centre's chief executive, Carol Damper, said: “We weren’t told their individual circumstances, but they could well have been fleeing abuse, or had been evicted by bailiffs. Imagine the distress! So much loss, with the children not understanding why they have had to leave their home, nursery, school, family and friends, and all compounded by the fear and uncertainty of where they will end up.

    "We were astonished by everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity in donated the gifts. It exceeded all our hopes. The Roberts Centre can only care because you do, so thank you all so very much!”

    Meonstoke churchwarden Angela Peagram said: “It was lovely to end the year on such a heart-warming story of kindness and generosity from one community to another.”

    Bishop Jonathan and the Rev Amanda Collinson at St Andrew's, Meonstoke, with some of the donated toys
    Christmas lunch at St Faith's Church, Lee-on-the-Solent

    The annual Christmas voucher appeal, which is run by Churches Homeless Action, saw more than £7,000 in gift vouchers donated to help those on the margins of our communities. The vouchers put together for the 'Comfort and Joy' campaign were handed over at a special carol service in St Mary's Church, Fratton, just before Christmas.

    The campaign, which is now in its 21st year, allows those who are homeless, fleeing abuse or claiming asylum to buy themselves Christmas gifts, using gift vouchers donated by those in our churches, schools and communities. The vouchers come with a personal Christmas greeting from the donor.

    Those who gathered at St Mary's Church on December 15 heard reflections from the City of Sanctuary, the Society of St James, and the Roberts Centre about what Christmas was like for those they supported and cared for. They particularly thought about how it feels to be alone, unable to afford all the things others seem to have; to be bombarded by images of the ‘perfect Christmas’ which will never be possible in the circumstances they face; and to often have no ‘home’ to feel safe and secure in.

    Canon Bob White, the vicar of St Mary’s, said: "Once again we have been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by others and by the importance of this simple act for those who receive the gift card and greeting. Thank you to all who have supported us. We also need to recognise and thank all those who will volunteer or work over the Christmas season to support those who feel isolated or in need and their dedication and love shown not just at Christmas but throughout the year.’

    Churchgoers from St Margaret's Church, Southsea, also delivered Christmas hampers to families in need in the run-up to Christmas. Their 'Hampers of Hope' scheme saw worshippers packing food and Christmas treats into more than 200 hampers in the church before delivering them across their parish.

    And worshippers from St Faith's Church, Lee-on-Solent, cooked Christmas dinner for those who might otherwise have been on their own on Christmas Day and invited them into their church to eat together.


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