Lancashire parish churches are providing a wide range of support for people in their local communities as the energy and cost of living crisis continues.
And their efforts to be ‘beacons of hope’ have been praised this week by the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff (pictured).
Across Lancashire there are many examples of support being given at this time.
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.
“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 (pictured below).
“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.
Rev Kat added: “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.”
Meanwhile over in Garstang, all the local churches have partnered to offer ‘warm spaces’.
At St Thomas' Church in the town the warm space is on Monday morning from 9:30-11:30am during the Food Club (Garstang's Foodbank) opening times.
There is also a free cafe and games like chess and dominoes.
Further south, St John's, Whittle-le-Woods and Clayton Brook Community churches have just 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 11.30am, soup and a roll between 12.30 and 2pm, then hot drinks and biscuits until they close.
Funding has been applied for, but so far the church says the initiative is funded by faith. There is a dedicated 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 as the winter progresses.
St Cuthbert's, Fulwood in Preston meanwhile is exploring different options to support their local community including A Renew Wellbeing space.
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 (pictured) said: "We'll also partner with a mental health professional from the local council or 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."
Reacting to the great work going on across the County Bishop Jill said today: "The work of our parishes to support people in their local areas is the very definition of our Diocesan Vision to be Healthy Churches Transforming Communities.
"They are beacons of hope in an increasingly challenging world, providing everything from warm places to sit and chat, to meals, foodbanks, financial advice through CAP Debt Centres and much more.
"At the centre of everything is Jesus who calls us to service in times of need and particularly to serve the most vulnerable who require the most help."
For more on the work of parishes to support communities at this time across the Diocese visit this page of the Diocesan website.