The first of our stated values at St Peter’s, Brockley is ‘Feels like Family: Church is a diverse family where we can be fully known, unconditionally loved and become who we’re created to be’. One of the scriptures that inspired the church leaders early on in their tenure was Psalm 68:5-6:

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing,
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

To that end we have worked intentionally on connecting people into the family of God, mainly through the community initiatives offered through Love Brockley. The church building is open five days a week running a variety of community activities that care for the diverse needs of the people in our area.

When we started our Food Bank and Social Supermarket at the beginning of the pandemic, we had little idea that what would develop out of it was a strong sense of connection amongst the people attending. Many of our social supermarket members have joined the volunteer team, and love coming each week and catching up with their friends there.

Through this we have seen remarkable transformations in those dealing with isolation and loneliness. One woman has said more than once that she didn’t think she’d still be alive if she hadn’t found us. The community she has made at St. Peter’s has lifted her out of depression, alcoholism and ill-health. Many others tell us that they don’t leave their homes in the week except to come to the social supermarket, and that though they may have to overcome anxiety or other mental hurdles to attend, they always feel better for having done so. One young man living in supported living for people with mental health issues has come to the social supermarket nearly every week for four  years. He has slowly opened up to others in the community, and has even joined
a church home-group, where he feels loved and welcomed. He once looked at me in amazement and said “The thing that I can’t quite figure out is that I’ve been coming here for two years, and people still like me!”.  He no longer requires food, but he still comes most weeks for the coffee and cake and conversation.

What we have found through our community activities – the job club, the parenting groups, the domestic abuse support group, the friendship café and the community choir and the community garden – is that people’s deepest need is to belong. We have seen God do remarkable things in bringing people living in a ‘sun-scorched land’ of loneliness into feeling like family. We have seen able to witness how practical love causes people to feel safe enough to allow God to reveal himself as the defender of the fatherless, the widow, the refugee. It has been beautiful to catch a bit of God’s heart and to be able to give it away to others.