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Bishop of Blackburn-designate and current Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North has expressed his support for the many churches across Lancashire continuing to help their local communities, as energy and cost of living crises continue to bite in 2023.

Across the County, more than 60 of our parishes are currently committed to providing specific support for their communities in a variety of ways; fighting to help their parishioners to combat isolation, financial challenges and even hunger, whilst working with and alongside local and regional partner organisations.

Together they are providing warm spaces, food and refreshments; companionship all across and much more all across Lancashire as the toughest days of the winter still ahead.

In Haslingden and Helmshore for example, the Editor of the local church community’s ‘Tor and Town Magazine’, George Garlick, has coordinated a comprehensive list, available online, of support venues and organisations dedicated to helping people in the community during the winter.

George said: “I produced the list of ten warm and welcoming spaces in Haslingden and Helmshore (including four local churches) in late November. Since then, another two have been added. The vast majority provide free brews, free food (soup and toast) and another two offer ‘pay what you can’ free food. Every day there we provide at least two options so people can turn off their heating and enjoy company.

"I’m struck by the sheer number and variety of service and love being provided. I’m pleased to see four churches active, including all three Anglican parishes. To me, this is what ministry for a place is all about. It’s largely random, spontaneous goodwill and we are also grateful to Lancashire County Council for their support.”

See this website page for more on all the above.

Meanwhile, across the Diocese there are similar tales to tell; of welcome support being offered including … 

  • 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. 
  • St Laurence’s in Chorley continues to support the people of that town in a huge variety of ways from providing warm spaces to free clothing and free haircuts to a free hot meal. Later this year they are planning to open a ‘Wellness Hub’ to care for the mind, body and spiritand plans are well under way for that initiative.  
  • At St Stephen’s in Preston there isLunch 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 ‘Wellbeing Café’ in October 2022 and it runs every Wednesday during school term time from 3.30pm to 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. 

Reflecting on the ongoing support across the Diocese, Bishop Philip said today: “In late 2022, in a special edition of our ‘Parish Update’ ebulletin, I reflected with our parishes on the ‘perma-crisis’ we seem to find ourselves in just now, and the impact this 'permanent ongoing crisis' is having on the more vulnerable in particular. 

Even people who may have struggled to get by in the past but somehow still managed to pay their bills, now find themselves facing genuine hardship of a kind not seen for many generations.

“From soaring prices in the supermarkets and out of control energy costs to the ongoing aftershocks of the pandemic and fresh tremors across Europe since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we are all living in unprecedented times. Many of those in our churches who are working hard to provide support may be struggling themselves; so this makes it even more humbling to see our faithful parishes living out Jesus' message of hope in their positive responses and actions to help their local communities at this time.”