Christmas Day Together
This is an ecumenical community project sponsored by Churches Together in Lichfield working in partnership with community groups that for the past 6 years has provided a Festive meal and afternoon entertainment on Christmas Day for people who would otherwise be on their own and have no friends or family to provide hospitality.
It all started with Edna (not her real name). As a volunteer with the Library Home Reader service I was visiting her just before Christmas 2008. When she said that Christmas Day would be just like any other day and that she would be alone, I reflected that there could be many other people in Lichfield in the same position. So with the support of the local Baptist minister who offered his church premises and experience of providing community lunches every week we approached Churches Together. With their blessing and a grant we began to contact churches and also make links with the local community groups.
From the start Christmas Day Together has been a partnership between the churches and community. I had meetings with the local Housing, Social Services, Neighbourhood and Voluntary groups and their referrals has been key to trying to ensure we meet those in greatest need. Over the years we have also developed links with the mental health services and Women's refuge.
We decided that initially we would use volunteers from the churches and this still accounts for the majority of people helping. However as word has got around we have more volunteers from the community and it is an interesting area to pursue as to what the balance should be.
We have had grants from City Council and local supermarkets as well as local charities. Churches Together guarantee to meet any shortfall.
We felt it important from the beginning that we have no age restriction. The only limitation is that guests need to be able to access car transport and be reasonably independent in personal care. Each guest receives an invitation and as well as approaching agencies/churches for referrals we also put posters up in supermarkets/churches etc so that people can refer themselves.
In 2009 we had 27 guests. We decided to extend the area to Lichfield District in 2010 - this meant that it could include all of the Churches together region. By 2011 we had 45 guests and that number has remained the same. While there are many guests who come every year it is important I feel that we have new people as well to ensure it is a dynamic project that is continuing to meet people’s needs.
What we have learned is that there we are all potential guests and that there should be no "us and them" Guests often become hosts. So while we make no charge for the event, we do provide an opportunity for guests to make a financial contribution anonymously. Each year this raises between £100 and £200.
One of the greatest achievements over the past 6 years has been the number of volunteers involved in the project in a wide variety of ways. Every church has been represented in some way. We have a transport coordinator who organises a team of drivers. On Christmas Eve we have group who prepare vegetables and decorate the Hall. The local neighbourhood Community centre wraps the presents. On the day we have hosts who look after the guests and serve the food.
The story of the catering team is one of ecumenical progress! For the first 4 years we were grateful to use the experience of the church who provided the weekly community lunches. When they took a break the Cathedral took it on and this year we had a catering team from 3 churches who at the beginning had not met and by the end worked together to produce a wonderful meal!
Link to the website of Churches Together in Lichfield