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World News

Cornish churches plan celebration 'feasts' to help struggling families

by Donna Birrell

A group of churches in Cornwall is aiming to alleviate financial pressure on families in the New Year 
by providing ‘feast’ evenings and celebrating the gift of food. 

It comes as analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that inflation will rise to 4.6% by Christmas, leaving the average UK family seeing bills rise by around £33 per week or £1700 a year. 

From January, the Penlee Cluster of churches in Penzance is responding by opening a ‘Play Zone’ at St John’s Church Penzance every day from 3 to 6 pm. It will provide a safe, warm place for children and families to come together, to play and have fun. There will be a wide range of activities and a warm ‘Feast’ meal for all who attend, celebrating the gift of food.

Reverend Sian Yates is Team Rector for the Penlee Cluster.

“The pressures on families and households in our local communities are rising exponentially. All four churches in our Cluster are in the top 15% of deprivation and St John’s and St Mary’s Penzance are among most deprived in the Diocese of Truro.

“We have seen large increases in the costs of fuel, heating and in many necessities, including food. The Universal Credit uplift of £20 that was put in place in the pandemic has stopped. All these factors including the strains of the pandemic are having major impacts on people, especially here.

“As church congregations we want to respond to this need and come alongside our communities. 

“This project very much fulfils the 3rd Mark of Mission: Offering loving service. It fulfils the Saints Way aims : putting young people at the centre of our life and work of our churches.

“At a practical level this project will help families financially, not having to have heating on in homes and saving on food bills. It will benefit families who are living in very cramped accommodation especially those who have lost their homes due to a rise in Air BnB accommodation. It will give families something to look forward to in the depth of winter.

“Bringing people together opens the opportunities for growing mutual support amongst those facing challenging circumstances. Signposting for other help and internet access will be available. Most importantly because Feast is happening in the church building with volunteers from local churches it inevitably brings about conversations about our Christian faith.”

The project is working with local schools so that families who will benefit the most are sensitively identified and invited to the Feast sessions. 

Reverend Andrew Yates is chair of the Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum. He told Premier the sessions will be good for the community.

“It’s 3 or 4 hours, where they’re not having to heat their house and we're looking for grants and donations from people locally, who will come and provide food. So again, that's saving a bit of the bill. But perhaps just as important, is people coming together. There’s a sense that we're in this together as a community. We’re calling it a ‘Feast’ night  so as not to give the impression of ‘you're in need, or we're helping you’ but there's a kind of celebration element about people coming together in the church. We want people to come and be there, celebrate and save some money too.”

The Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum is also working with churches and charities this Christmas to help local people in need.

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