How parishes are volunteering to help refugees, homeless and the isolated on Christmas Day
In an interview with the Radio Times, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would be celebrating Christmas as she has always done for the past 20 years – including paying a visit to a lunch organised by churches in her Maidenhead constituency for the elderly. Here three churches and a cathedral describe similar events they will be hosting on Christmas Day for groups such as rough sleepers, people living in hostels, refugees and asylum seekers and people alone on Christmas Day.
Lunch for rough sleepers and people living in hostels and temporary accommodation
The Church of the Apostles in Miles Platting, Manchester, is inviting up to 150 rough sleepers and people living in hostels and temporary accommodation for Christmas dinner on Christmas Day.
Rev Ellie Trimble, priest-in-charge, writes: “We have a weekly lunch on Sunday for around 60 to 80 homeless and vulnerably housed people called ‘Food for All’ and Christmas Day this year falls on a Sunday so we decided we would continue with this as normal. FareShare, who distribute good food destined for waste, will be providing the food for us. We have a team of volunteers, some from the congregation and also guests and volunteers coming in as part of the Greater Manchester Winter Night Shelter. We have a new kitchen at the Church of the Apostles, partly funded by the Diocese of Manchester mission development fund and the lottery. This has made catering on this scale much easier and we also have two halls. We received a donation from Kellogg’s to decorate the church hall for the winter night shelter and to pay for activities over Christmas. We’ll have entertainment on Christmas Day – we’ve got a choir booked and we already have 120 presents wrapped for guests. We will be repeating this meal on New Year’s Day as this falls on a Sunday too.”
Lunch for asylum seekers and refugees
Sanctus, a social enterprise based at St Mark’s Church, Stoke on Trent, supporting asylum seekers and refugees, will coordinate lunch for 200 people on Christmas Day.
Rev Sally Smith, team vicar of St Mark’s, and chief executive of Sanctus, said: “We’ve been running the Christmas Day lunch for refugees and asylum seekers over the past four years from the church hall, but this year it will be hosted by the local YMCA, where they have better kitchen facilities. We will have volunteers working on Christmas Day from Sanctus and others, including the chef at the YMCA. The Archdeacon of Stoke on Trent, Matthew Parker and the Bishop of Stafford, Geoff Annas, will also volunteer their help. The local Moat House hotel will donate 50 turkey dinners and YMCA minibuses will be used to transport people to the lunch. For many people attending, it will be the first time that they have celebrated Christmas. For others, it will be the first time they have celebrated Christmas as Christians.”
Lunch for people alone at Christmas
Liz Bloomer, churchwarden of St Michael and All Angels Church in Stourport, Worcestershire, writes about how the church will host a dinner for people on their own on Christmas Day.
“We held our first Christmas Day dinner last year and around 40 people came, including volunteers, many of whom were on their own too. This year, we have had the kitchen in the church hall refurbished and are on course to cater for more people. Tesco is providing most of the food and the Coop is providing everything around it – crackers, mugs, After Eights, and table cloths. Turkeys will be cooked across the town and vegetables prepped on Christmas Eve. Lifts are provided for people coming to the dinner as transport on Christmas Day can be difficult. We have a whole team of people to welcome guests and serve them drinks. It was fabulous last year and the whole town got behind it with volunteers, loans of equipment, and gift donations. It really brought out the kindness of people in Stourport and Kidderminster.”
Portsmouth Cathedral will host a three-course lunch for up to 60 people on Christmas Day in a joint event with FoodCycle, a charity that creates meals from surplus food.
Canon Peter Leonard, from Portsmouth Cathedral, writes: “This will be the first time we have hosted a Christmas Day lunch at the cathedral. We already run a regular Tuesday lunch club for the elderly and we have worked with FoodCycle before. FoodCycle will be providing food donated to them by the local supermarkets and they won’t know what they are getting until 4.00pm on Christmas Eve. A FoodCycle volunteer will make biscuits and package them up as gifts and one of the supermarkets has donated a voucher that will allow us to buy drinks for the guests. The cathedral volunteers will provide transport and one of the local churches, St Simon’s, is lending its minibus. The meal is for people who are alone on Christmas Day, or who might otherwise not get a Christmas meal. We are getting a lot of enquiries from a lot of different organisations.”