Havant URC have been offering Free Lunches to All who come between 11am and 2pm every Saturday since December 2012. We now serve between 60 and 90 lunches on a Saturday morning.
We have certain things in our favour: the Church is in the Town Centre, close to the Bus Station, the Railway Station and a Shopping Centre with a large multi-story Car Park. It is close to the pedestrian route between the Market Parade Shops and a Pedestrianised Precinct (through the Shopping Centre). It is also close to the Havant Town Park.
* the Halls have been recently refurbished (2009) to include a high-quality kitchen
* a glazed foyer with a servery bar is visible and accessible from the street
* the Church Meeting had already agreed to promote the use of the halls as a community facility under the marketing name of “The Meeting Place”
* one person was prepared to make a commitment of time to develop the project and be a ‘constant’ in the staffing.
The initial idea was one which evolved quickly The Saturday Lunches started in response to conversations during existing coffee mornings about previous midweek lunch gatherings, and the need for opportunities to meet and chat. The initial clientele consisted of friends from local churches, including our own, and their friends. It soon became apparent, however, that there was a need for free food, or very cheap food, for those who were struggling in the economic climate.
The decision to offer free food and rely on donations, was a decision of principle, based on conviction and previous experience.
Initially we offered cup-a-soup, bread rolls, tea, coffee and cakes
but when it became known that homeless people, and people on very low incomes were starting to make use of the facilities, , it prompted the offer of homemade soup from people within the church fellowship, and led to a slight diversification in the food on offer: homemade rolls, because these were cheaper, and a variety of cakes - Tesco cheapest - simply because of t he increase in numbers . Salads and baked potatoes with a variety of toppings were added, and fruit jellies.
It was known that all proceeds (after expenses) were going to charity. This raised over £1000 for Christian Aid by the second Christmas. For the first eighteen months the balance of those attending was in favour of those who were able and prepared to make a generous donation, but by July 2014 it was reported that this balance was changing and that the proportion of those who gave less than the cost value of the meals was greater than those able to give generously, with the result that the following year raised only £350, and notice had to be given that the balances able to be given to Christian Aid were unlikely to continue to be forthcoming. Now the lunches just about manage to cover their costs, and rely upon a few regular generous givers.
The majority of the volunteers who now staff the lunches come from the “clientele”, some of whom have been homeless themselves in the recent past. The ordained ministers “drop in” whenever possible as a resource, and the church has trained several people who act as “host / listeners” at the various public sessions in “The Meeting Place”.
The church supports by providing heat and light and financial oversight, as part of the working out of its Vision2020 aspirations.
The work has expanded as the number of people needing help has increased, some of it very informal. We work in partnership with the local foodbank, run by the nearby community church, and are part of a Homelessness Action Group drawn from statutory, civic and voluntary bodies, including several churches, who have an interest in supporting those who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes.
All that we do is to be seen as part of our response to the Love of God, but there is a small but significant proportion of the congregation who do not see this activity in this light.
Free Lunches For All
• Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality
to strangers, for thereby some have entertained
• Titus 1:8 Be hospitable, a lover of good, self-
controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.
• Matthew25:35 For I was hungry and you gave
me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave
me something to drink, I was a stranger and you
invited me in.
God's character is to
show love and grace to
every person and all
creation. This is shown
in God's mission
God sent Jesus Christ,
whose words and
actions are the best
possible example of
that love and grace
Jesus inspires the church to
become a community of love
and grace in the world today