Christians in the Winchester Area have a long established and fruitful track record of working together – particularly in prayer, mission and justice. Over recent years we have seen Churches Together Champions working to draw together key people in a number of areas of church and civic life. 2017 has been a busy year for the champions and their supporters, who have originated and run projects across all our focus areas. The following gives a snapshot of some of the highlights;-
The established Street Pastors project continues to provide support to workers and customers in the night-time economy. The team has expanded to include early evening well-received patrols in Stanmore and our first Response Pastors who are trained to offer support to people caught up in major national incidents.
Similarly, the network of City Centre Chaplains is expanding to offer pastoral and prayer support to workers in business, retail and the public sector including city council, law courts and police. 2017 saw Debbie Veel take over as lead Chaplain and the team continues to grow from strength to strength.
Winchester is not immune to the effects of austerity and our help to the homeless, disadvantaged and vulnerable families has been in high demand. The Basics Bank is now serving more families in crisis as a proportion of all users and its partnerships with schools is increasing. The Community Café at St Peter’s Church on Jewry Street regularly serves over 65 people, blending those socially isolated with people needing a good, cheap lunch. The food served is donated surplus coordinated in part by our climate justice champion. Several churches are now running debt advice programmes.
Our Climate Justice network shares news and information on important campaigns as well as supporting church groups and developing local projects and partnerships. This group aims to resource churches and communities further in developing the vital area of creation stewardship and care.
The Anti Trafficking & Slavery Prayer Group has grown steadily through the year and when they installed a STOP THE TRAFFIK Gift Box outside the Cathedral, many local residents were surprised to discover that Winchester is a location for people trafficking, with numerous victims passing through the station. Our volunteers had many significant conversations with residents and visitors. This is one area where we hope to develop our response in 2018.
The Refugee Support Group and family ‘buddies’ continue to provide support for the six Syrian families who have been settled in Winchester; including friendship, transport, language, help with medical and education appointments and some memorable group outings and events. This has been made possible by the generosity of various churches and individuals who, as well as providing regular financial support, have responded to specific appeals for items, for which the team are very grateful. It has been positive to build up a closer working relationship with Winchester City and Hampshire County Councils in the hope that working together, the resettlement experience of these families can be made as positive as possible.
Our most recently appointed champion is working in the area of Seniors Support and Assistance. While there is a wide range of information and services available for older folks locally, the challenge is how best to coordinate and communicate the information. The first step is producing a “What’s on Where” matrix before exploring further how to help organisations work together more effectively.
The vibrant Intercession Group is well established, having met monthly for over two years. They gather to reflect together on what the Spirit is saying and support local initiatives with prayer.
Finally, there were three events which saw much of the local church community come together to reach out into the heart of the city. In June, the Cathedral hosted Tents on the Green, a vibrant three day worship and outreach festival. At Christmas, volunteers from many churches spoke to hundreds of people about Christ and their hopes, at the Christmas Chalet in Winchester Christmas Market. And, in December, the first ever Civic Prayer Breakfast brought together over 80 representatives of business, civic society, education and faith communities to pray and share their hopes and dreams for the future of Winchester.
During 2018 there will be a number of opportunities to get involved with the work of Churches Together. To stay up-to-date, find out about ways to take part in the life of our city or contact our Champions, follow us on Facebook at Churches Together in Winchester or on Twitter @CTWinch.