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Being part of a growing community – Places of Welcome

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‘Chat over a Cuppa’ began in March 2018 and was born out of the desire to live out our aim of providing a warm friendly environment at Christ Church Eaton where everyone would be welcome regardless of their circumstances or situation.

A team, led by Stephanie Brookes and with the blessing of the Revd Dr Patrick Richmond, was formed and set out to make this a reality. After some research it became clear that there were other like minded organisations pioneering just the sort of thing that ‘The Team’ were hoping to provide.

One such organization was ‘Places of Welcome’ with a very clear framework from which to grow a welcoming community.These are warmly known as the ‘5 Ps’ and have been foundational to our growing numbers as the comments below will show.

Place: The building should be accessible and The Team committed to open the venue weekly. Our church building is always open to visitors but we chose Monday as our day for ‘Chat Over a Cuppa’. We have found that having a regular day to meet has become part of people’s routines and they have felt valued. We have received lovely feedback since opening ‘Chat Over a Cuppa’ including:

‘I know where to find a warm welcome, the group has given me companionship since losing my husband, I know where to come and don’t need to spend the day alone’

People: this welcoming community is open to everyone, and the Team felt very strongly that this was also one of their guiding principles.

One lady who comes and is a valued member of our community had in the past been a carer and now through circumstances found that her needs were such that she is now cared for by others, she spoke with emotion about her experience saying:

‘I can’t express how much this group has meant to me. I can be so isolated during the week as I have mobility difficulties, but when I come here, I feel accepted, I feel calm and it keeps me going.’

Presence: A place where people actively listen to one another. This especially resonated with the Team, some of which were already trained ‘listeners’ and others were active listeners with deep pastoral hearts. One regular attendee spoke of having a sisterhood, with no other agenda but to be friends.

Another spoke of the warmth and the gentle atmosphere where problems could be shared.

Provision: This of course meant refreshments, and what gathering would be complete without tea, coffee and biscuits. But of course, people’s generosity abounds, and we have, on special occasions enjoyed a lavish afternoon tea, as our photos will testify!!!

And finally

Participation: The recognition that every person coming to a ‘Place of Welcome’ will bring talents, experiences and skills that they might be willing to share.

It has been such a joy to see what wonderful crafts our community has produced during our gatherings. One lady knits the most exquisite things and made us all smile when she said ‘since coming I have been motivated to finish my cardigan!’ Now we all want one too!

Chat over a cuppa has been a wonderful addition to our church community, through this weekly gathering we have deepened existing friendships and have had the privilege of making new friends as our number has blossomed to 35 strong.

We hope through sharing some of our journey to have encouraged others to take their own step towards being a Place of Welcome. If you would like to find out more you can contact of ‘Places of Welcome’ on info@placesofwelcome.orgwhich has provided us with invaluable guidance

As the ‘new’ but not ‘young’ curate for Christ Church I have truly welcomed the opportunity to meet and be with all who come to share in a chat and a cuppa.

It speaks to me so clearly of a theology of place and belonging, where we have time to listen to one another.