12 March 2010
Sevenoaks churches come together to train Christians to address local needs
Christians in the village of Sevenoaks in Kent have been busy over the last few years finding ways to care for the lonely, the dispossessed and the desperate in their community.
Churches in the area have come together to set up community service projects as part of Churches Together in Sevenoaks. The longest running service has been 'Befrienders' which enables people to visit isolated, lonely individuals on a regular basis. This has a team from various churches and is well used by the community and referred to by social services.
At the beginning of 2009 a Debt Advice Service was set up with 15 advisors having been trained in 2008, again from various churches. The service has had clients weekly all year and now is getting referrals and appreciation from sources such as the housing service and social services.
"As a member of the Debt Advice Team, one of the things that attracted me in addition to seeing it as filling a need, was the opportunity to meet and work with Christians from a variety of backgrounds," said local church member Andrea Taylor. "It broadens our perspective and enables us to do something that an individual church often can't."
Since the end of last summer there has been a Contact Service - a place where a partly estranged parent can have a safe and monitored meeting place with their children. This runs on a Sunday afternoon every two weeks and is served by a team from several churches and is being well used.
All these service groups have been formally trained and have ongoing training. They are all free to users.
In addition to these services, the Sevenoaks Christian Counselling Service has been running for at least 20 years. This is a charity which has paid and voluntary Christian workers, is supported largely by the Sevenoaks churches and offers counselling to all whatever their beliefs or if they have none. Clients are invited to contribute a donation but that is optional. This Counselling Service is widely referred to by local doctors and by the NHS Mental Health Team as well as others. Some clients come from fairly far afield due to its good reputation. The Counselling Team also provide ongoing training courses which are quite widely used by non-faith professionals as well as those with a faith.