Most Norfolk churches did lockdown social action
Covid-19 and lockdown did not stop most Norfolk churches serving their communities, a survey by Network Norfolk has revealed - they just did it in new and innovative ways. Keith Morris reports in the last in our series of survey articles.
Among the 90 churches which responded to our survey, almost two-thirds (62%) said that they had been undertaking social action projects while their buildings and normal projects were forced to close their doors.
Stories of what many churches and Christian organisations did to help out their communities can be found on the FaithHopeLoveNorfolk website, which was launched by the team at Network Norfolk specifically to tell those stories and help inspire and connect different groups.
Supporting existing Foodbanks or setting up new food parcel projects, often in association with council or community hub networks, was the most common activity.
Stalham Baptist were involved with the local foodbank and volunteer system, Bowthorpe Worship Centre delivered over 80 food parcels a week and the Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue (pictured right) in Norwich set up an almost daily food parcel service.
Meanwhile Gateway Vineyard’s Pantry project, based in Trowse, fed hundreds of people three times a week and, when coming out of lockdown, All Saints Church, Mundesley, set up a community larder and fridge to make sure food did not go to waste.
A Diocese of Norwich Filling the Gap project is currently providing 20,000 meals to hungry families over the school summer holidays thanks to its churches and schools.
The Wymondham Community Food Project, based at Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury church in Wymondham (pictured right), has been helping to support and feed 80 vulnerable families a week during lockdown – with extra help from staff seconded from South Norfolk Council and generous donations from local supermarkets.
Reaching out to help neighbours who were vulnerable or shielding at home by collecting prescriptions, shopping trips, chats on the phone or via Zoom and lifts to urgent appointments were also widely provided by different church members. Cornerstone Church in Norwich and The Open Door Christian Fellowship are good examples.
Oulton Broad Team Ministry were part of a the council coordinated community response, said Rector Helen Jary. “This involved shopping, collecting prescriptions and phone befriending. We kept the church porch open 24/7 for foodbank donations and we delivered flowers to the neighbourhood with 'we're here to help' cards.”
Gardening, shopping and food distribution, meals on wheels, medication deliveries, exercise opportunities, phone calls and socially distanced door step chats and coffee were some of the activities undertaken by The Christian Fellowship, Norwich, said pastor Duane Elkins.
Oak Grove Community Church in Norwich set up a telephone befriending project and distributed food and family activities, continued its parenting programme and gave money advice.
Helping to house homeless people was also done by several churches, including St Margaret’s in Old Catton. St Catherine’s church, Mile Cross, did the same through Hope Into Action.
Working with people affected by substance and alcohol misuse was another social action activity. An Addiction Recovery Group has been meeting, first by Zoom, and since June, in open air, said Hope Church Thetford lead elder Nigel Worth. And the Matthew Project has sent out activity packs to 200 children across Norfolk who are affected by someone else’s substance misuse.
Lots of other innovative ways of helping out vulnerable members of their local communities were engaged in by churches.
Rev Canon Lorraine Summers, at St Mary’s Kenninghall (pictured right) in Broadland, said: “We distributed 48 packs of playing cards to the elderly and couples in the village and ladies toiletry or chocolate gift bags were left on doorsteps of single parents and female residents. We’ve also dropped over 50 packets of biscuits on residents doorsteps.” The church also held a ‘Great British Lockdown Bake Off’ contest by putting up wartime recipes for residents to try and then upload pictures to the church Facebook page. It was timed to coincide with the planned VE Day 75 celebrations. Youngsters were also catered for with craft activity bags and colouring competitions.
Phone calls to elderly and lonely and leaving bouquets and cards on the doorsteps of those suffering was done by members at Liberty Church, Frettenham, said Barrie Lawrence.
Taverham Evangelical Church (TEC) produced 200 wash bags out of pillow-cases to three local care homes for staff to use while washing re-usable PPE.
Over 1400 invitation cards offering support, a chat or a prayer were (chat, prayer etc) were circulated by Cliff Park Community Church, Gorleston, said leadership team member Tony Mallion. They also ran a Zoom Alpha and worked in partnership with the local churches emergency foodbank delivery service.
Read more about churches helping during the Covid-19 pandemic at www.faithhopelovenorfolk.co.uk
Last week: How Norfolk churches responded with social action projects during lockdown.
Pictured above the Gateway Vineyard Pantry project.