Stories From Our Community: Autumn Term 2016 (Part One)
To kickstart our new series, we’re looking at projects and events from link churches, which have been working this past term on projects to involve students, congregation members, and people from the local community to live out faith in concrete ways.
St Columba’s by the Castle: An Inclusive Ceilidh
St Columba’s by the Castle (Scottish Episcopal) is an SCM link church in the heart of Edinburgh, located near the university and part of a local ecumenical partnership with Augustine United Church (URC) and Greyfriars Kirk (Church of Scotland).
On 2 December, St Columba's by the Castle, Edinburgh held a ceilidh for St Andrewstide. What made it different was that residents from the local homeless hostel were invited. Over the years, the church has been supportive of the hostel, giving presents at Christmas and Easter, but this was the first time that members of the church and members of the hostel had met together. We shared food, music and dancing. It wasn't 'us' helping 'them' but all of us meeting as equals, and seeing each other as individuals, with names and stories, rather than as labels.
Hopefully we were all enriched a little by it - as well as having a great evening. (Members of the local SCM group were also invited but weren't able to make it). This very much fits into our vision for 2017, when we are going to be welcoming Syrian refugees for a ceilidh around Burns Night, hosting a Night Shelter in the church hall for the first time in February, and opening up our church and our garden as quiet places for people at the heart of our busy city.
Revd David Paton-Williams
St Luke's, Southsea: Love Our Neighbour
St Luke's Southsea is an Anglican church in the heart of the diocese of Portsmouth - it has a heart for the local community and a vision of doing something radically different.
We are not a large congregation but we are definitely committed to engaging with our community with whatever resource we have, even as it shifts around us. As a brand new block of student accommodation has opened literally across the road, it’s hard to ignore the fact that students are now squarely our nearest neighbours! All 1100 of them.
So what could we do to “love our neighbour”? In an area where the have/have not divide is painfully obvious, how could we sow seeds of peace and build bridges in a diverse community?
A good place to start is a warm welcome, so…in the autumn term we opened up our car park on moving in Saturday, and with help from the CU and students from other churches, offered a moving-in service to help carry up boxes, as well as a refreshment table to recover from the whole process! The following day we held a massive BBQ and invited the community and the students to hang out together in the sunshine and enjoy a free burger (or two!). It was a wonderful start to the year, and we look forward to more opportunities to welcome and connect with students in Portsmouth.
St George and Our Lady Queen of Peace, Worcester: Youth Outreach & Alpha Ministry
St George and Our Lady Queen of Peace are part of the Catholic churches team in Worcester, which together with St Joseph Warndon, represent three parishes that serve the city.
It has been an exciting first semester for the CathSoc Plus group in Worcester. University students and young adults from the area have been participating in Alpha, using the new Alpha Film Series, which has been excellent. We have set up CathSoc Mums and Dads, a fantastic group of parishioners from our Catholic Worcester parishes who have cooked some fantastic meals for our hungry group.
The Alpha series has provoked some great conversation and thought about faith and life. We are looking forward to picking it up again after the Christmas break. Part of the group have been working with other parishioners in looking to establish a parish based youth ministry. We have already celebrated a Youth Mass, done some evangelisation work with a project called NightFever, and are getting ready for another Youth Mass for the Epiphany. In 2017, we are hoping to step up a gear, love Jesus more and be his missionary disciples in Worcester.
Fr Michael Glover
All Hallows Church, Leeds: The Syrian Kitchen
All Hallows Church is an inclusive Christian community in inner-city Leeds, exploring the meaning of faith in the 21st Century. The church seeks to respond to the challenge of loving God and demonstrating that love to all people.
All Hallows runs a Real Junk Food Cafe, which creates meals and community out of intercepted 'waste' food. In the last few months, the church has started including in this a weekly 'Syrian Kitchen' – every Thursday some refugee friends spend the day with us, cooking delicious Middle Eastern goodies and sharing Syrian life/culture with others in the kitchen and cafe.
The idea behind the ‘Real Junk Food Project’ is that people pay what they can, or help to cover costs by volunteering. The project has been up and running at All Hallows for the past two years, with the Syrian Kitchen recently established in partnership with a local mosque. The initiative gives opportunities for refugees to feel part of the community, contributing their skills and building cohesion. “The project has attracted a good (and growing) number of Christian and non-Christian local students, through both volunteering and sharing meals,” says Revd Heston Groenewald, the vicar at All Hallows.
Next term (Spring 2017), the church will be hosting a winter night shelter for destitute asylum seekers, which huge numbers of students are already signing up for.
Revd Heston Groenewald
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