Community. Food. Support: Life in the Church Centre During Covid
Community, Food & Support: These are at the heart of the Church Centre's ministry, and we've seen this develop and adapt through the last difficult twelve months.
Martin tells the story:
'Early in March last year, I sat in the office taking phonecalls over two days during which more or less all our hirers and groups cancelled events and bookings. Almost overnight, as various "lockdown" measures were implemented, we lost two-thirds or our visitors and over half our income. By Easter, all we had left coming in was the Pre-School and the rest of the place looked as if it would stand empty.
But God had other ideas of course, and people started to use us in different ways. The Church being “open” during the week for private prayer and reflection saw people coming in during the week in need of support, prayer and someone to talk to. Its one of the more unpredictable parts of my job that I especially enjoy.
Others come to the Church to see how they can help us: to bring food, clothing or books for us to pass on to others. We became a distribution centre for masks and PPE; a collection point for food parcel distribution and I was dealing with various charities who needed a local “hub” to be able to expand their range of services.
We continue to support the Southampton Sunday Lunch Project charity, providing meals for the city’s homeless every Sunday. These visitors often come back during the week for food parcels, shelter or company. They come into Church on a Sunday for pastoral support, or to connect with God and hear his Word in their own difficult and often complex circumstances.
I have worked in the office for 11 years now, and in that time it has been wonderful to see how the Church Centre has become more integrated with the Church itself - one of my personal missions when I took on the job in 2010. It's great to see how the different groups of people that use each space have become better connected with each other and part of a more joined-up whole. Most recently, this has been massively helped by the incredible work the team has done taking our church online. People come to the office now who have only connected with us virtually in the last six months. They bring resources for people to share, they respond to our distribution centre messages, they give us money, and they come into the presence of God. Thanks to the YouTube channels and Facebook page etc, we are reaching more people than ever - doing what the Church and Centre have always done but in a different way.'
The Centre being closed to all external hires and gatherings has given me the opportunity to do some maintenance on the site, a lot of which is long overdue and very difficult to fit in when the place is busy. In January for example, Geoff the caretaker and I re-decorated the Meeting Room ready for guests to return. And we have bookings in there for September too, so people look forward to coming back.