On Sunday 21 January, Christians from around the city gathered to celebrate our shared ministry in the Week of Christian Unity.
Winchester Cathedral did its best to look majestic on a sodden evening, as the street lights picked out the relentless dripping of the rain. Any hint of smugness, that we had braved the elements to come and worship together, were soon dispelled by visiting speaker, Archbishop Angaelous from the Coptic Church.
The monotonous English weather didn’t seem so awful as we listened to tales of violence and murder of Coptic Christians across Egypt and the wider area, simply because of their faith. His words were echoed by Bishops Bertin Subi from Katanga and Désiré Mukanirwa from Goma, both of whom spoke eloquently about the troubles in their respective areas of the Congo.
Archbishop Angaelous told us that 130 Christians had been killed in Egypt in the last twelve months, yet, in spite of this, he is humbled to be part of what is still the biggest church in the Middle East
Copts remain a reconciling force and their Muslim neighbours urge them to stay because they see Christians as “instruments of peace”. Despite the murders and associated violence, there has not been a single case of retaliation from the Coptic community. Quoting 2 Corinthians 5, he reminded us that God “has committed us to the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
From a Winchester perspective, there were numerous different denominations represented in the cathedral and ministers from at least six taking part in the service. Here in our City, the evidence of genuine Christian love and respect was plain to see. Prayers were led by the some of the Churches Together Champions – see the highlights of 2017 for details of their work.
It was a powerful service with a challenging message for us as we consider relationships both within and without the church in this week of Christian Unity and throughout our divided communities in the months ahead.
Highlights of 2017
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
The Winchester Churches Nightshelter in Winchester has been faithfully supported by Christians across the city since its inception. See below for an update on their work and how we can all help this summer.
Summer at the Nightshelter
Life at the Nightshelter never slows down, even during the summer. This month we’ve said goodbye to four residents who are happily moving on into new accommodation, and celebrated with another who has successfully interviewed for a job with a local components company. It’s always fantastic to see residents making such positive progress.
Queen’s Award success
We’re still riding high from the success of our Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which our wonderful army of 230 volunteers were honoured to receive last month. If you missed it, read the full story on this fantastic achievement – the highest accolade given to volunteer groups across the UK – on our website www.wcns.org.uk.
Plea for blankets and sleeping bags
The weather is certainly glorious, but did you know that we give out blankets and sleeping bags to rough sleepers even during hot spells? Nights can still be very cold, and sleeping rough is uncomfortable no matter how warm the weather is. Our stock cupboard is running low and needs replenishing, so if you have any good quality second-hand blankets or sleeping bags, please drop them directly at the Nightshelter in central Winchester (visit www.wcns.org.uk for directions).
Small donations go a long way
Every month we update our Most Wanted Items – small things that can make a really big difference to the Nightshelter. This month we’re in need of plastic bags, tin foil, toilet roll, biscuits, tins of custard, squash and eggs. Each year, donations of food and domestic items save us around £27,000 – vital money that we can allocate to other services, so even if you donate something small, it really does make a big difference.
Thank you all so much for your support.
Marketing and PR Co-ordinator, Winchester Churches Nightshelter
Getting in touch with Winchester Churches
We’ve created a list below of all of the Winchester Church websites we know about. If we’ve missed one do get in contact with us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll include it.