Serve And Share building community in Gloucester

Published: Tuesday September 21, 2021

A poster wuth the words Where have you encountered God this week? and postit notes with answers like on my drive, in the kindness of others, in my tears.... and many more.A food sharing initiative in central Gloucester has led to friendships and a better sense of community as the church at St Catharine’s seeks to be there for those around them having a tough time.

SAS (Serve And Share) was set up by St Catharine’s in summer 2020 and has continued ever since. On Wednesdays through the summer, St Catharine’s worked with the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF)  programme coordinated by Gloucestershire County Council. GCC provided picnic bags, as well as a bag with recipes and ingredients to make two meals. They were given out by the church. Around 35 to 40 families have come through the church doors each week and 60-70 children have been playing in the church grounds, using the prayer stations and activities and some got to take part in a music session.

Now that the schools are back, St Catharine’s is continuing the SAS programme on Wednesdays.

Organiser Angharad Nairn said, “It’s been an incredible year of change and steep learning curves with wonderful highs and also real lows, but God has been with us throughout, leading us through and teaching us so much.”

Through this food sharing scheme, the people in the Kingsholm area have been able to connect with people they might never have met before. One family was reluctant to allow people to connect, but gradually, a friendship has blossomed.

Angharad said, “The same person each week took food to one family. The door used to be open just a crack and food was handed over quickly with no conversation. Gradually, the church member formed an incredible friendship with the family and soon the door was opened wide when she arrived. Both looked forward to the visits and being able to chat together. The family now no longer needs the food, but the friendship continues and the church member still pops in to see how they are.”

This is just one of the many friendships that have been forged through the church actively working to ensure a fairer distribution of God’s gifts in the local community.

“One couple come every week and spend a long time chatting to people each Wednesday. They love the friendship and support and they have really encouraged us too. We love it when they bring their cockatiel with them.

“For others, life is still incredibly tough. We’ve got people living in accommodation with infestations and one mum and three children living in a mouldy flat with no electricity as it has been condemned. The children have no garden to play in… but they come on a Wednesday for friendship, support, a safe place and a place to escape to. They know they can trust us and will be supported. They may shed tears but there are lots of smiles and laughter too.”

One lady who has been coming to the church’s SAS events over the summer said of St Catharine’s,

“God is really in this place. This is heaven on earth, and I can really see God’s work being done here in all you are doing. Sometimes God takes you right down into the pits before you can come back up, but God has put friendly, kind, and helpful people here to support me and lift me up. What a wonderful, friendly, caring, and organised team. This is the best venue with the best activities, but it’s more because God is really here in His people.”

Not everyone is able to physically help with the SAS scheme, but the church is filled with people praying, for the links that have been forged, for the community and for the project.

Angharad said, “We are really grateful for all the prayers, and we are especially thankful for answered prayer, that those who needed help have come and that those who didn’t sign up, knew where to come and have been supported. There are many families who are not in receipt of free school meals who are also in desperate need. We have been able to support them too. We are so grateful that they have felt able to come and ask for the food and support they need.

“Please continue to pray for the families we haven’t reached. I’m really excited to see what God is going to continue to do after this summer and how St Catharine’s will open our doors and God’s loving arms to the community once again.”

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