Last updated 24th January 2023
Across Lancashire parishes are working hard to support their local communities as the winter approaches and the energy and cost of living crisis continues.
Speaking recently to the Premier Christian News website, The Acting Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Philip North, pictured, said he feared a 'winter of destitution' in the face of the energy and cost of living crisis.
"Churches stand ready in this crisis. We have spaces that we can open up as warm spaces, we run activities that people can come to and we run a network of food banks and food pantries and so on. There's a great deal we can offer."
In response to the situation he added: "I encourage our parishes and schools to live out Jesus' message of hope and respond with positive action to help their communities at this time.
"Let's help people not to be afraid today. As we meet the needs, as we listen to the plight of those going through crisis, as we do what we can, then that's ... radical contemporary action."
So many of our parishes are responding to Bishop Philip's call.
Congregations and church leaders are coming together to provide support for those struggling with the cost of food and fuel; opening churches during the week to provide a warm and safe place; increasing the provision of food for families; cooking meals; providing clothing, books, toys, coffee and tea and other refreshments; a place to talk and especially a place to pray and worship.
Some of our local stories are told on this page for your prayers and to hopefully inspire others to set up similar initiatives if you haven't done so already.
Share stories from your own parishes with Diocesan Communications Manager, Ronnie Semley at email@example.com and if you would like to connect with others directly to learn more about these initiatives please email Being Witnesses Manager, Joy Rushton on firstname.lastname@example.org
Typical of church efforts to help people in our communities is the programme being set up at the church of St Laurence in Chorley town centre and advertised in the town via the promotional flyer here.
From Tuesday to Friday 11am - 2pm, hot meals and drinks are available to folk living alone in need of support. The church will also provide people with a free haircut; a lending library and book swap; a free clothes rail; free newspapers; weekly speakers; debt advice; arts and crafts and rag rugging/build a blanket sessions.
Parish Priest Fr Neil Kelley said: “Winter is always a tough time for those on fixed incomes or little cash to spare, and this year it is going to be even more of a challenge as people struggle to make ends meet and pay for the basics.
"We hope to provide people with a safe and warm space to spend time in, with volunteers to offer the hand of friendship. We hope that by offering food, friendship and a warm environment it will help people struggle a little less than they otherwise might do.
"The Church of England has always held to the proud tradition of being a church there for all its parish, not just members of its congregation and we hope that all those locally who may be struggling will be able to come along for support and friendship.”
St Laurence's also has a Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre on site, a Debt Centre manager and team of befrienders available to support people in the Chorley area who are struggling with the burden of debt.
Their specialist advice and support is available for free, is confidential and available not only to people who attend church, but anyone at all in the community.
At the moment they are very busy, but are continuing to provide a drop-in service each week, as well as seeing people in their homes in the local area. Their drop in is on a Wednesday between 1-2pm inside St Laurence's Church.
The helpline number for people who would like to book an appointment and start tackling their debt issue is 0800 328 0006.
Meanwhile, St Laurence’s is planning to open a ‘Wellness Hub’ later in 2023 to care for the mind, body and spirit and plans are well under way for that initiative.
At the Parish of the Risen Lord, Preston weekly food markets take place. They involve families being able to take food of their choice for a small donation.
“This follows the pattern we set during Covid lockdown when, initially, our church and school, working together, delivered food parcels to our families' homes, “ said the Rev Canon Alistair McHaffie.
“We buy our food from the charity 'Fareshare'. Any excess perishable items are then taken to our local foodbank and the non-perishables are saved till the following week."
Sue Armstrong and her colleagues at Morecambe Parish Church, are looking into ways to further support the congregation and local community via the ‘Morecambe Pantry'.
Sue said: “We set up Morecambe Pantry in the midst of the first Covid winter with aim to reduce social isolation, food poverty (we are in one of the top ten deprived areas of GB) and food waste.
“We were able to invite people into the War Memorial Hall through a booking system and to do a shop for £4 and then for an additional £1 add eggs, bread, and milk.
“We have gone from strength to strength, with more than 200 families on our system, we are able to offer 60+ appointments each week and with God’s help we are now moving to a sole use building where we will be opening a café.
“The aim of the church is to provide pantry sessions more often throughout the week (currently Monday 9-11am and Friday 3-7 pm) and are able to offer hot meals for the most vulnerable in our community and to a warm and welcoming space where every one is able to come and take refuge and feel God’s love."
Soup will also be served and it's all free.
The days when the churches are open in this way are Tuesdays, 10am-1pm at Holy Trinity Church Hall (wifi and spaces available for those who want to work).
Also Thursdays, 10am-1pm at Higher Walton Community Centre
They are still looking for volunteers to help ... email email@example.com
This is a cafe drop-in, with weekly hobbies and activities which will be shared or co-produced, and the cafe space attached to a quiet room/prayer space.
Rev Mark Bradford said: "We'll partner with a mental health professional from the local council /other suitable organisation to ensure good inclusive practices for safe spaces.
"We are also looking at a Community Lunch on a Wednesday after our Toddler Group, aiming to draw in people of all ages and backgrounds, and provide a good, affordable meal, in a warm and welcoming environment. It will be linked to a service, either before or after."
At St Matthew the Apostle, Burnley, the church is concerned about the increasing numbers of people getting in touch saying they are struggling to have enough money to turn the heating and lights on.
Some are asking for ready-to-eat food when collecting food parcels because they have no electricity or gas credit to use to heat food.
“As part of our partnership working with South West Burnley Together we've teamed up with West End Community Centre to raise money for families and vulnerable adults who are experiencing fuel poverty,” says the Rev. Kat Gregory-Witham.
“We’re aiming to raise £1000 so that we can help local people be able to turn on their oven on Christmas Day.
"Please help by donating online if you can. Go to this web page to donate. Thankyou!
“We are also working with West End Community Centre and Burnley Together to get gifts to our neighbours who are facing a difficult time this Christmas."
The foodbank at St Matthew's is also open every Saturday 9am-11am, alongside a weekly free Breakfast Club.
The Rev. David Dickinson, parish priest at All Saints Hesketh with Becconsall, runs a Foodbank from the Rectory.
He said: “We have been providing this facility for two and a half years. Church members donate food (tins, packets, sachets) by leaving it on our doorstep. This means the gift is anonymous.
"Some bring their gift to Church on Sundays, to their chosen service, and some leave the food in the building when the Church is open for private prayer. Anyone who asks for help receives it as a love gift from the people of God.
“One or two people in the Church have also opted to give us money, or to pay for a particular shopping run.
"We are working hard to increase our supplies and a newly opening supermarket is in contact with us, in order to provide with extra help.
David continued: “Our Parish Primary school also has a non-uniform day each term, the payment being tins or packets. The kids in the village love to run up to me at the weekend and tell me that 'love is a tin of beans'. Their response is overwhelmingly generous.
"Together with other churches and community groups we also provide a free community lunch at the Community Centre each Friday and if people are able to donate, they do. About 10 volunteers, led by a Parish Councillor, cook, serve and oversee the meal."
In Garstang all the local churches have partnered to offer Warm Spaces.
At St Thomas' the warm space is on Monday morning from 9:30-11:30am during the Food Club's (Garstang's Food bank) opening times.
There is a free cafe and the availability of games like chess and dominoes for those who would like that.
St John's Whittle and Clayton Brook Community churches have started a Warm Welcome scheme every Monday 9am-5pm to offer free hot drinks, toast and soup to local residents who may be struggling this winter.
They serve toast and jam/marmalade from opening until 11.30, soup and a roll between 12.30 and 2, then hot drinks and biscuits until we close.
They have applied for some funding but so far it is funded by faith, which is always the best way!
They have a team of around 16 volunteers and they are praying word will get round and that they will be able to continue offer this form of practical help and outreach to the community.
At All Hallows Church in Bispham ‘The Stable’, the church’s small hall, is open on Tuesdays (3-30pm to 5pm) and Fridays (10.30am to 12.30pm) as a warm community space, where local people can come for free to socialise; read; do homework; play games and enjoy a free cuppa and toast.
At St Saviour’s Church in Bamber Bridge, everyone is welcome to ‘Talking Tables’ every Monday from 10am to noon. It’s a free coffee morning for those who want a cuppa, company and a warm, safe space.
At St Stephen’s in Preston there is ‘Lunch Club Plus’ open to everyone on Tuesdays with a two-course lunch served at 12.30pm and a social activity afterwards; on Thursdays and on Fridays at 2.30pm there is a Food Market in the church car park.
Over at St Lawrence with St Paul Longridge they started a ‘Welcome Café’ in October 2022 and it runs every Wednesday during school term time from 3.30-5pm, offering a warm space, a brew, simple snacks and a chat!
And there is so much more … including a soup kitchen at Blackpool Holy Cross, South Shore; a luncheon club at St Catherine’s in Burnley; a community coffee morning at Fleetwood St Nicholas; a soup lunch at St Mary Magdalene, Clitheroe. The list goes on.
Ronnie Semley, page created October 2022; last updated January 2023