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Across the County of Lancashire many of our parish churches continue to go the extra mile to support their local communities as the energy and cost of living crisis continues.

Their work has been highlighted this week by the Acting Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Philip North; as clergy and parishioners continue offering help at this difficult time.

Meanwhile, staff in the various teams at the Diocesan offices on the edge of Blackburn recently joined forces to draw together, and draw attention to, a whole raft of resources for parishes.

The aim was to ‘help the helpers’; from highlighting grants currently available, to providing practical help and advice in relation to their churches’ own energy bills.

Everything was gathered into a recent special edition of the regular Diocesan ‘Parish Update’ ebulletin and issued to nearly 2000 clergy and church officers across Lancashire.

The new resources are also available 24/7 in a new section of the Diocesan website via the ‘Resources’ tab on the homepage of www.blackburn.anglican.org

Parishes working to help people at this time include The Risen Lord, Preston, where 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."

Holy Trinity Hoghton and all Saints Higher Walton meanwhile, is providing warm spaces for people in their communities to sit, chat and enjoy refreshments during the colder months. 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.

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 gift of love from the people of God.”

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.”

Speaking in an introduction to the recent ‘Parish Update’ special ebulletin and website resources for parishes, Bishop Philip said: “The combination of climate breakdown, pandemic, war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and political turmoil has led people to believe that we are in such a state of permanent near-disaster that we need new language to describe it.

"These website pages, and the first of a series of Parish Update ebulletin special editions to follow in the coming weeks and months, offer a great deal of advice to deal with some key aspects of that ‘perma-crisis’ around rising food and fuel costs; supporting parishes to support their communities.

“Many of you will be seeing the impact of the 'perma-crisis' locally on the people you serve, and our first priority must be reaching out to meet the needs of those who are suffering most. I encourage our parishes to live out Jesus' message of hope and respond with positive action to help their communities at this time."