Bishop Rachel welcomes guests at Saturday Kitchen

Published: Tuesday December 12, 2023

Bishop Rachel serves hot drinks to a woman at the Saturday KitchenFor one hour each Saturday, the Wesley Room at St Matthew’s Church in Cheltenham opens up to serve vulnerable people in the town with a hot meal, friendly welcome and a warm space.

At the weekend, Bishop Rachel joined staff and volunteers at Saturday Kitchen, to find out more about the people who help run this essential service and spend time with the guests.

Saturday Kitchen is run by teams of volunteers from St Matthew’s and the Minster, with the aim of demonstrating God’s love in a practical, tangible way.

Running from 11am to 12 noon each week, Saturday Kitchen was an initiative started in 2020.

The Revd Richard Coombs, Rector, says, “At the beginning of lockdown, we’d just finished a big project replacing the kitchen at St Matthew’s and it was suggested that it was a good opportunity to serve vulnerable people in the town centre. We were aware that King’s Table at Trinity and Open Door were serving meals on other days of the week, but there was no provision at weekends, so we decided to serve meals on Saturday. We very quickly recruited around 50 people to support the project and came up with the name ‘Saturday Kitchen’. It seemed to capture everyone’s interest. It was something we’d been longing to do for years and felt a really productive and positive way to spend our time during those isolated months.”

Starting with around 30 meals a week, Saturday Kitchen now serves around 50 to 60 meals to vulnerable people in the central Cheltenham area – those who are homeless or those living in supported housing, ex-offenders, people who are just about coping with life and bills, or those recovering from addiction.

Bishop Rachel chats with three men at the Saturday Kitchen meal table

Richard says, “It was exciting to have Bishop Rachel join us at the weekend. She helped to serve hot drinks to our guests and sat at each of the tables and chatted with everyone, showing real interest in their lives They were all very grateful that she was there. The volunteers were particularly delighted that Bishop Rachel spent time with them before we opened, which meant a lot to them.”

Sharing the Good News of Jesus with the guests is also a key part of the Saturday Kitchen.

Richard says, “The team gathers at 10am to set up, we pray together and then half the team continues cooking while the other half prepare front of house. The guests have a time of coffee and conversation before their hot food is served. After the meal, one of the team offers a Bible thought, which many of the guests stay to listen to. We’ve done some really varied things, and went through the Book of Job recently, which some of the guests really enjoyed.

“I think it’s essential that evangelism goes together with social outreach – social outreach alone, while good, is not evangelism. But for evangelism to be effective, you need to be doing the social outreach as well; the two strengthen each other.

“Last term we ran an Alpha course aimed specifically at our Saturday Kitchen community, which was well received by 20 or 30 who came across the weeks. We’ve seen around five of our guests also become regular members of our Sunday worship and be warmly welcomed by the church family here and they’ve integrated really well. It’s amazing.”

Bishop Rachel says, “Spending time with the guests and volunteers at St Matthew and the Minster’s Saturday Kitchen was a real joy. I was able to hear something of the lives and experiences of the people who gathered for a hot lunch together and heard a reflection on Christmas. This is a wonderful example of community ministry which is good news for both volunteers and guests, and reflects yet more of the transforming hope and love of Jesus Christ. A great example of our LIFE Together commitment to be ‘advocates for flourishing through initiatives which combat injustice, environmental destruction, exclusion and isolation.”

If you are interested in finding out more about this project, visit Saturday Kitchen — St Matthew’s & The Minster 

If you would like to make a donation to Saturday Kitchen, click here


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