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22 December 2009

Care for the needy central to churches Christmas

Care for the needy central to churches Christmas

While Christmas may be a traditional time for indulgence, many people in the UK are struggling to afford basic provisions - and churches are stepping into the gap to provide.

New Zion Christian Fellowship of Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, started operating a food bank in November.

Six volunteers give free food and a friendly chat once a week to families referred from places like social services and CAB as being in special need of food. More than 30 people have come for a free bag of food, with the numbers increasing every week.

The food bank has brought churches in the area together for a common cause. While the project has been kicked off with a grant from the county council, the hope is that churches in the area will help keep it going by contributing food from their congregations, which they are already beginning to do.

Peter Eldridge, who is pastor of NZCF, said: "We hope that other churches in the area will eventually start to run their own food banks and offer their services on different mornings of the week so that there is food available every day of the week."

Other churches around the UK are embarking on similar ventures. Vineyard Church Belfast has set up a food bank called Storehouse in an old warehouse where local Christians provide free groceries and feed needy families which are identified by local charities. This Christmas they have done a "Big Christmas Give", an attempt to gather two months worth of food in one day.

Churches in Glasgow have stepped up the challenge of feeding the hungry in a variety of ways. Destiny Church Glasgow, through its hotline Destiny's Angels (www.destinyangels.org) will be sending hundreds of food hampers and new toys to families in need during the week of Christmas.

Pastor Andrew Owen said: "There are hundreds of ordinary Glasgow folks with no money and no food. We desperately need more supplies as there is no end to the need."

Glasgow City Mission serves Christmas meals and gives bags of presents, donated by area churches, to needy people at Christmastime.

And Findlay Memorial Church opens its doors during Christmas, inviting families to come into its café and also serving free hot drinks and mince pies on the Saturday before Christmas. They also provide debt counselling in partnership with Christians Against Poverty (www.capuk.org) and visit needy families that they meet through this venture with food parcels and gifts.

A food bank in Norwich is currently being set up under the banner of Transforming Norwich (Norwich Churches Together) and is now taking in food from a wide number of churches.