The rural foodbank offering home deliveries to isolated families in crisis

The Revd Gillian Roberts shares the stories of people the Fosse Foodbank has supported in rural Warwickshire and how churches are at the heart of this community safety net.

Fosse Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network of over 420 foodbanks, is administered by St. Peter’s Church in Kineton, a village in south-east Warwickshire with a population of around 2,500. The headquarters of the local foodbank is based here, along with the warehouse and a distribution centre that gives out food parcels to people in crisis.  It is working with a network of rural churches to provide support for people in need from Wellesbourne in the west to Bishops Itchington and Southam in the north.  We are working with the local Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Community and Roman Catholic churches.

Most foodbanks are set up in towns or cities, but people in rural areas also experience times of crisis, with one in five living below the poverty line.  The problem is exasperated by the higher cost of living, poor availability of social services and lack of affordable public transport.  Today in Kineton and the surrounding area, there are families struggling to put food on the table.  For people on low incomes, a sudden crisis – redundancy, benefit changes, illness or just an unexpected bill – can mean going hungry.  But the problem may not be so obvious in the countryside – there is a stigma attached to having people deliver bags of shopping to your door; there is no anonymity in walking into the local foodbank.

Our volunteers have been moved by the stories they have heard. We have John, who is homeless and lives in local farm outbuildings and comes to the centre, not just for food but to use the washroom facilities and to have a chat and cup of tea with the volunteers.  Kevin lives on a canal boat – it is quite a trek to get his groceries along the tow path. Then there is the couple who live in a car.  And Susan, with her daughter and new baby, who have been moved into temporary hotel accommodation away from her abusive husband.  The only facility she has for food is a kettle.  And several older folk in the housing association sheltered accommodation, whose benefits don’t quite stretch to meet all their regular bills. We have had clients return to us to work as volunteers and even joined our church family.

We have a network of professionals: doctors, health visitors, children’s centres, churches, schools and the housing associations who identify people in crisis and issue them with a voucher.  Last year 83 referral agencies issued vouchers to feed 211 people (155 adults and 56 children).  The main reasons given were benefit delays or changes, low income, debt and homelessness.

Each of our centres open for two hours a week, manned by a team of volunteers.  As it is not always convenient to get to the centre during those hours or if public transport is not available from outlying villages, we also have a delivery service, with emergency food parcels being taken to people’s homes by a team of volunteer drivers.

The Foodbank does more than provide food in an emergency.  It works to address the root causes of clients’ problems.  It can help to prevent family breakdown, housing loss, crime and mental health problems. We have a great team of volunteers who take time over a cup of tea and biscuit to listen to problems and signpost people to other agencies for further support.

The Foodbank is also an opportunity for local congregations to engage in their God-given mission – to feed the hungry (in our own neighbourhood), to raise awareness and to confront and campaign against social injustice.

Rev. Gillian Roberts
The Fosse Foodbank Steering Committee

Giving thanks for people of colour who have inspired us by their lives

All Saints Day on 1 November will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral by a service celebrating people of diverse backgrounds and cultures from the past who give us hope amidst the changes and challenges of our own day. The Revd Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor of St Paul’s Cathedral, previews the service which also marks the 30th anniversary of the Archbishops’ Council’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns.

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants’, said Isaac Newton, recognising the debt he owed to those who had gone before him. On All Saints Day, the church recognises and celebrates the inspired souls, the saints and holy people, whose faithful lives and witness encourage and guide us in our own response to God’s call.

This year at St Paul’s Cathedral, we are delighted to share in a very special marking of All Saints Day. This year, in acknowledgement of the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of CMEAC, (Archbishops’ Council’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns), we take the opportunity to give especial thanks for the women and men of colour from around the world who have gone before us. These, our ancestors in faith, now part of the great cloud of witnesses, come from diverse backgrounds and represent many different nationalities and cultures. These black saints inspire us by their lives; giving us hope amidst the changes and challenges of our own day.

One inspiration to us today is Ini Kopuria who founded the Melanesian Brotherhood on 28 October 1925, to bring the Gospel to the remote and dispersed islands of Melanesia. He dedicated his life and his land to God. The Brotherhood quickly grew into one of the largest religious communities in the Anglican Communion and its method of evangelism proved highly effective.

We are delighted that we will be joined by members, partners and supporters of CMEAC, a number of whom will play a part in the service. A young person from St Mary Magdalene Academy, Islington, will read. Christians from a range of backgrounds will lead the congregation in a litany which gives thanks for Holy Ones from many nations including China, India, Uganda, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States; for men and women, for Jew and Gentile.

Mezzo Soprano Melanie Marshall, who counts Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson among her fans and has appeared to great acclaim on Broadway, the West End, Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and on TV and radio, will sing, accompanied by Peter Holder, Sub-organist of St Paul’s.

We are hugely indebted to the artist Meg Wroe for the loan of her piece Trinity 2016 based on Rublev’s icon and inspired by the Stepney Racial Diversity Day held earlier this year. This artwork will be on display during the service as an aid for reflection and prayer.

The All Saints communion service at St Paul’s, launches the start of a year of events marking the 30th Anniversary of CMEAC.  The year will be completed in 2017 with the launch of a new publication ‘Inspired Souls – Black Saints and Holy People from around the World’. 

CMEAC works for the full inclusion and participation of people of black and minority ethnic heritage at every level within the Church of England.  Coming together to give thanks for the inspired souls who have gone before us, so we give thanks for the huge contribution made by the very many people of colour who make up such a significant part of the church today – around the world certainly but also most definitely here in the UK. As we go forward we long for the day when the whole church, at every level, will embrace, reflect and celebrate the gift God has given his church and the world in the people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic heritage.

St Paul’s Cathedral is delighted to share in and to host this service. It builds on work both in the past and in the present which seeks to respond to God’s call for justice and inclusion.

The service takes place on 1 November at 5pm.

The Revd Canon Tricia Hillas
Canon Pastor of St Paul’s Cathedral

Encouraging community integration

Around a third of the Sunday morning congregation at St Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire, known locally as the ‘Boston Stump’ are now of eastern European origin thanks to EU migration to the area over the last decade.

Rev Alyson Buxton talks about the impact on the life of the Parish of Boston and how the church is hoping to promote community integration with support from an initial grant awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.