Last year, the worshipping community in Kempsford wanted to do something to support people struggling with isolation and bring them together. The Long Table seemed the perfect solution. The Revd Kim Brown, Vicar at St Mary’s Kempsford, shares how a collective desire to help others resulted in them winning a competition for The Longest Table.
Kim says, “In May 2022, when the news headlines were full of the cost of living crisis and energy price hikes, some people in our village began expressing concern that it might be a cold and lonely winter for people who live alone. I had the idea that a community meal, like The Long Table in Stroud, might be a good response, gathering people together somewhere warm to eat a hearty meal.”
They held a series of public meetings to explore the idea with the worshipping community. Tom Herbert and Will Mansell from The Long Table went along to one of them to explain how the meals worked.
Kim says, “We gathered a large crowd of volunteers from all walks of life in Kempsford and Whelford, guided by Steve Pitt, a local chef, and supported by our primary school who offered the kitchen and school hall as a venue. The Parish Council gave some start-up funding, and off we went. There is a cooked two-course meal each month and, from a pool of 25 volunteers, around a dozen help out each time.”
The meals have been held monthly since September 2022 and, after a summer break, may resume later this year should the village like to continue them.
Kim says, “People attended the meals with their family or neighbours, and our cooks and servers are from both the church and wider community. There is a warm, friendly atmosphere and everyone sits together at one long table. There has been a good response, with each meal attracting around 50 people – including families, older people, those who live alone, people on their way home from work – all sections of the community have been represented.”
Kim says the approach has been flexible to accommodate as many people as possible.
“Some people book ‘takeaway’ meals and some are delivered to those who are sick. People give a cash donation of whatever they like, so it is accessible to everyone. Near Remembrance Day, we sang wartime songs together and gave donations to the Royal British Legion, and at Christmas there was a party theme with crackers and mince pies, and carols were spontaneously sung.”
One mum with two small children says, “We would come to this every week, we love it and look forward to it!”
Val, a local volunteer who lives alone, adds, “It’s brilliant to be involved with something that means so much to people.”
Kim says, “We have built stronger bonds in our community by doing this together, which is what we set out to do. I’m so happy the village, church, school and Parish Council have created this warm and welcoming space for so many people to enjoy. I’m sure Jesus pulls up a chair and enjoys being at the meal with everyone.”
At Christmas, The Long Table held a competition to find ‘The Hosts with the Most: Longest Table 2022’, entering all the places that ran community meals, and The Long Table Kempsford was named the winner. They received a number of food-related prizes, which had been donated by the Long Table’s suppliers and partners, so, in January, the Revd Kim held a reception to thank all the volunteers. Together, they watched a special message recorded by Tom Herbert, congratulating them on their win, followed by a raffle of all the prizes so that everyone had something to take home.
Have you hosted a Long Table in your community, or have a similar story to tell? Do share it with us, email ku.gr1695673392o.coi1695673392dsolg1695673392@newo1695673392k1695673392