Last night the AGM of Churches Together in King’s Lynn heard from eleven local Christian-founded projects, giving a powerful account of churches working together to bring hope and support where there is need, and sharing good news with passion. Jenny Seal reports.
At the AGM of Churches Together in King’s Lynn on Wednesday, September 25 representatives from projects founded within the local Christian community were invited to give a 5-minute talk on their work. Eleven projects accepted the invitation, showing that Christian-motivated social action is thriving within the town.
Christian initiatives serving those in critical economic need – King’s Lynn Foodbank, the CAP Debt Centre, the Winter Night Shelter and Mary’s Kitchen – provided a powerful account of the value churches can bring to desperate situations with their time, money and faith.
Lucy McKitterick from the Winter Night Shelter said: “We had 97 people to stay last year. That was the largest number of people using a church’s night shelter in the whole of East Anglia – that’s Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. We need it in King’s Lynn and we’re doing a good job.”
Assistant Catholic Parish Priest Rev Gordon Adams spoke about Mary’s Kitchen, a project serving between 25-40 homeless people each Saturday with a lunch of soup and baked goods. He said: “One of the things that strikes us very much is just how grateful people genuinely are when you are doing for them what, for us, is not really a terribly big service.”
The new Co-ordinator of King’s Lynn Foodbank, Helen Gilbert thanked the churches for their support over the past year. She said: “In three weeks in December we received 9 tonnes of food so please pass on thanks to all of your congregations. But I want to put that into a bit of perspective. We are currently giving out about 3.5 tonnes of food every month. So the 9 tonnes we received last Christmas was overwhelming – we had food everywhere – but now its gone.”
A report read by Rev Dan Tansey about the CAP Debt Centre in King’s Lynn, said: “The cases of people we are helping through the Debt Centre are becoming more and more desperate, with more and more clients seeming to have unsustainable budgets. Not because their expenditures are extreme, but because the income they are receiving is not enough.” The report written by Project Manager Emily Hart said: “Despite the challenges there is so much good that is going on. Since opening 3.5 years ago we have seen 17 households go debt-free impacting 175 people – 98 adults and 77 children.”
Other projects are providing emotional and social support within the community, such as a new weekly Drop-In Café started at St Faith’s Church in Gaywood that is now supporting around 30 people living with dementia. Rev Julie Boyd said: “One lady, who comes with her husband and finds it really helpful, said to me the other day, ‘what I love about this, is that not only is it every week, but you talk to my husband like he is a human being’. I thought ‘why wouldn’t you?’ But I guess she finds that people don’t always.”
Andrew Frere-Smith of Imagine Norfolk Together talked of his excitement around the Drop-In Cafe and his desire to roll out the learning to other churches. He said: “There are more and more elderly people in church. The population is getting older. The need is growing and we have the opportunity to piggy back on the experience of what’s already happening at St Faith’s to see if we can use that in other congregations.”
With a moving account of her own loss, Claire Archer talked about the annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Service, now in its fifth year and planned for October 15 at 6pm at Cornerstone Church in South Lynn. She said: “It is surprisingly hopeful. We are remembering and being thankful for what we’ve had, and for how those loved ones are still with us in our memories and our hearts.”
Rev Becca Rogers spoke about a new group exploring faith called Solace started at North Lynn Methodist Church, with the help of Church Army Officer James Hawksworth. Meetings start with Pilates to relax, and then everyone shares how they feel using emojis. People can then suggest topics and everyone votes to decide what is discussed. Becca said: “So you never know what you’re going to be talking about. We have Bible concordances, Bibles and our mobiles, and we look up passages on that topic. Then we talk about those passages and we talk about our lives. It can be a bit messy sometimes, but people have really shared, and we have really deep faith conversations. It’s a good thing to be part of.”
With an enthusiastic report on Celebrate King’s Lynn from Olivia O’Neill and a strong case for Open the Book givenby Rev Heather Berry it is clear that churches are keen to witness to God’s goodness in the town. Olivia said: “Celebrate King’s Lynn is basically a collaboration of all the churches; coming together to provide a free family fun day in The Walks. Underlying that is that we want to be a witness in the town to show unity amongst the churches – that is one of the biggest testimonies that we can give to the town.”
About Open the Book Rev Heather Barry said: “The teachers enjoy it, the teams enjoy it – we have great fun together – and the children love it…I really do believe in Open the Book.” There are now three Open the Book teams in King’s Lynn from across the churches going into five primary schools to tell Bible stories.
Prospective projects are also on the horizon. The Executive Committee of Churches Together have asked Daphne Sampson and Lucy Faulkner-Gawlinski of Klimate Concern to come up with eco-project proposals that local churches can embrace. Daphne and Lucy outlined two ideas based around eating less meat and planting an ambitious number of trees. Daphne said: “We can see that massive changes are needed if we are going to reach zero carbon by 2050. We as Christians can be leaders in our community and help others to have courage, to face the facts and to make changes.”
At the end of the evening Pastor Kevan Crane of Cornerstone Baptist Church summed up saying: “All the projects that we’ve heard about tonight are either embracing those who perhaps are remembering or grieving, sowing seeds of hope in the lives of many people who are poor or in debt, and witnessing as churches to the life that we have in Christ”.