It feels as though it has been an unseasonably warm October, but the days are getting shorter and the mornings in particular are feeling colder, and I know that our churches are thinking about how best to keep people warm this winter, drawing on the blog written by our Canon Missioner, Jay Colwill, in early September.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach as this is necessarily work that requires a local perspective. Local authorities are taking different approaches and it will be important for any work done by churches to complement this rather than compete with it.
If as a church you are thinking about providing a warm space, here are a few suggestions to consider.
First of all, don’t assume that opening a warm space has to be a major new project. Think about how your church and parish hall are used already: for example, is there a youth group, ballet class or preschool that already uses the space and heats it? If so, could you keep it warm and open for some time afterwards, or open an adjacent space which is already heated, or would be relatively cheap to eat? It’s worth taking an asset-based approach of thinking about what you already have and how to use it even more effectively.
It’s also a good idea to investigate what is already going on in your area, and your Local Authority website should be able to help with that. If you need help finding a contact in your Local Authority, Nelly Misenga at Together Southwark can advise. Sometimes you might need a larger group than your church: for example, can several churches within a Deanery work together, sharing resources (funding and volunteers) to provide warm spaces in the most efficient way?
If you are planning to open up a warm space, consider the best venue. It might be tempting to use the church but churches are often large and hard to heat. Is there a hall or community café that would be a more appropriate venue, and which the church could support financially, or by providing volunteers from the church community?
Look for the places where people are going. For example in Sutton, the Local Authority have said that they will keep libraries open as warm spaces and are looking for volunteers to support that initiative. Perhaps that is the best way to support people and is responding to the local need.
If you are providing any sort of warm space or venue, do register with Warm Welcome so that it appears on their map and people who need it can find it.
Further information and resources to help with some of the wider issues around the Cost of Living are available at southwark.anglican.org/cost-of-living.