Churches across the UK have united, as part of the national #LoveYourNeighbour campaign, to share a message of hope, love and kindness to people struggling with COVID-19 and other social challenges this winter.
Local volunteers have been sponsoring and delivering Christmas ‘boxes’ to the most vulnerable and isolated. The contents of the boxes vary depending on the recipient, but can contain a variety of items including toiletries and other basic supplies or Christmas activities for children, decorations, Christmas food and treats.
The Revd Tim Watts, who is the Assistant Curate in Earlham in Mission partnership with the Mitre Benefice, has been coordinating the ‘Love Your Neighbour’ and ‘Love Christmas’ work for the partnership and connecting with churches across the diocese. Speaking about the campaigns he said:
“The vision of Love Your Neighbour, which started at the beginning of the pandemic, is to be an expression of God’s love to our local communities and to be a practical help to those around us in this difficult time. And we wanted to be part of this because Jesus called us to love our neighbours!
“‘Love Christmas’ grew from the ‘Love Your Neighbour’ campaign with the aim to give away 1 million parcels of hope nationally this Christmas. It has been so exciting to work with churches across the diocese who have wanted to get involved. There have been so many creative and inspiring ideas! One example is someone who could not have Christmas with their family spent what they would have spent on parcels for us to give away. So far in Norfolk we believe over 2000 parcels have been given away!
“Every year churches generally make and donate packages like this but why it’s so important this year is that the challenges we are seeing in the communities are growing and deepening. During these challenging times people are becoming more and more isolated and times are getting harder and harder for them. One person told us how lovely it was to just talk to someone. Love Christmas is an opportunity for us to assist churches and communities with the work they are already doing and also work that they want to do to reach out.”
St Mary Magdalene Church in Gorleston is one of the churches who is taking part in the campaign. The Revd Matthew Price, Vicar of St Mary Magdalene said:
“Because of the funding we have received from the Love Christmas campaign (and the generosity of local people), we’ve been able to send out gift packages and Christmas hampers to 160 households. These are all individuals or families which we’ve had previous contact with through our food bank, holiday-hunger programme and other community initiatives.
“Jesus said that he came to bring life in all its fullness and it’s wonderful to be able to demonstrate the fullness and give dignity to people facing tough circumstances by giving them extra gifts and treats – and not just the essentials – at Christmas time. We pray that it will be a sign to them of God’s love for them, expressed supremely in him sending Jesus into the world.”
One recipient of a hamper from St Mary Magdalene said: “we have just received our delivery my goodness I never expected that. Thank you so so much”. Another from a parent said it was “brilliant” and wanted to ring their church to say, “thank you all so much“.
The Love Your Neighbour campaign will be continuing in 2021.