Impact 242 - Crosshands
This week we look at how one of our churches is responding to the challenges of Covid.
Victoria Jones became priest to the multiple churches of Crosshands, Gorslas, Tycroes, Saron and Llanedi - a population of just over 22,000 – in September 2015. In 2018 God have her a vision for Crosshands, to establish a children youth and families centre with a church plant for the unchurched, a soft play area, cafe and drop in youth centre. The vision developed over time and at the beginning of 2020, Bishop Joanna released her from parish ministry to outwork the vision, Impact 242 was born. Victoria tells the story.
We signed the contract of the building that we use, which is attached to the community cinema, at the end of March this year at exactly the point when the county went into lockdown because of COVID 19. But far from being a negative, it gave us a golden opportunity to serve our community in a time of desperate need. We opened an emergency food bank with a clear message to our community, if you need food, then it is here for you. This was a real time of leaning into God and asking Him to guide us what to do. Within 24 hours we were picking up surplus food from supermarkets and connected with FareShare and the wider community began to respond in exciting ways to raise funds to support this new initiative – it is humbling to recognise that 90% of our donations are from unchurched people.
A typical day begins just after nine, with all hands on deck, ensuring all is ready for those who need our services. We open up the food bank at 10am. The afternoon is about restocking, picking up additional stock, ensuring a good supply of fresh food products alongside the essential tins of produce. It doesn’t end there, evenings are prime time for collecting from supermarkets, and then unpacking, often until 10pm.
Whereas many churches have felt the negative impact of Covid-19, it was in many ways the perfect springboard for us. We had planned a range of activities, but none of them would have given us the level of community engagement as the foodbank - people in our community now know who we are and what we do. We have been a place where people can turn to in their most vulnerable and most desperate times. We have been able to be an immediate response to need, but at the same time, able to be signposting people to additional support and a listening ear. A place for the hungry to find food, the lonely to find companionship and the hurt to find compassion. The gospel being outworked on so many levels.
We were asked by the NHS to provide food parcels for 13 families in Carmarthenshire every week that had a child receiving palliative care at home. We created over 400 toiletry bags for patients in hospitals We created 10 toiletry hampers for nurses on wards. We ran competitions for children and 31 blessing bags asking the community to nominate someone who deserved a treat. We created raffles and sold crocheted rainbows to raise funds and organised book and DVD swaps. To date we have collected 5 cots, 4 Moses baskets, 5 stair gates, two high-chairs, 2 brand new buggies, 10 crates of clothes and copious amounts of nappies and milk for those with the very young.
Very few of our volunteers are churchgoers, but, being in this environment and seeing what we are doing is speaking to them in volumes. Faith conversations are now an ordinary part of our days as we continue to build trust and form relationships. And when the unthinkable has happened, they have come to me to take the funeral.
God’s provision has been overwhelming and often before we realise that there is very little provision left, there will be someone walking through the door with a carrier bag of food or a cash donation. A gentleman came with £181 donation for the food bank. He said that £100 was from him and his 3 children raided their piggy banks to give to those who are struggling and between them gave £81. It is hard not to be moved by such extravagant giving.
My dream is to continue, not to get stuck doing the same thing. And to keep asking the question, what’s next God!?! We need to be always ready and available to serve our community in whatever its need is. And that involves being Jesus focused and being willing to do whatever he asks of us. To be bold and step out in faith with a servant heart wherever the Holy Spirit leads.