Theresa Neal from the parish of St Mary’s in Helston, Cornwall, first came up with the idea for creating a warm space when she saw a news segment about a baker in Yorkshire using the room above their kitchen as a community meeting space as it was extra warm due to the heat from their ovens! Galvanised by the cost of living crisis, she and several of her fellow parishioners had become increasingly keen to find ways to put their faith into action and decided that they would set up a welcoming warm hub of their own in their community, called ‘Warm Winter Welcome’.
Warm Winter Welcome are providing a free, warm, quiet space for anyone to come and keep warm throughout the winter months. They were able to make their idea a tangible reality within a short space of time, opening up the church hall after Mass on a Thursday, which enabled more parishioner involvement and support. They are offering a space for reading and puzzles as well as free hot drinks. Theresa spoke of how she and her team felt the setting up of the warm space seemed to flow as though the Holy Spirit was very much present. She said that her parish priest Fr Brian Kenwrick was very supportive from the start.
She encourages other parishes who are inspired to give it a go to not be daunted, emphasising that ‘keeping it simple’ and starting small, with realistic goals, is a good path to take! She is grateful to Caritas Plymouth for the chance to connect with other parishes who have set up warm spaces and share ideas via a recent zoom meeting. Theresa joins Caritas Manager Deborah Fisher in hoping that all parishes throughout the Diocese might consider supporting or creating a warm and welcoming space in their local community.
In a lovely touch, the parish team at St Mary’s have also been able to combine their previously established knitting ministry with the initiative, enabling them to provide warm blankets, scarves and other items for visitors to the warm space to take away. She said they now have some regular visitors and have found that everybody involved really enjoys being able to congregate and contribute to the local community in this way. She hopes that they continue the project until at least spring, and as long as there is a need. Happily, several other churches have also set up welcoming warm spaces in the area and Theresa hopes they will be able to collaborate further.
The warm winter welcome space is open every Thursday between 1-4 pm at St Mary’s church hall in Helston.
If you would like to find out more about setting up a chatter cafe or warm space in your community, please contact email@example.com
By Caitlin Miller, Communications Assistant.