Hope in difficult times

With many jobs lost or uncertain, and furlough funding coming to an end, many people need financial and practical help across our Diocese.

There are a number of initiatives co-ordinated by our parishes over the phone, online, and in other ways.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19 and lockdown, the Weymouth and Portland chapter of the church-based social care organisation Refresh has managed to continue and even expand its various outreach programmes for those in need.

Volunteers working for the 'Keep in Touch' programme, currently on pause, had been able to help at least 486 people in recent weeks, collecting 457 prescriptions for the housebound, and undertaking at least 218 shopping trips for the same group.

The Weymouth foodbank is also expanding, with a move to new hub premises, and setting up as an independent charity with a new board of trustees to send food out to branches in 4 local churches of different denominations. One branch will be open each day and Refresh is looking for people with a vehicle to help transport food from the central hub.

Church Against Poverty (CAP), with its debt counselling and CAP Money initiative for students, is also expanding with a new team in place for Weymouth and Portland, as resumes work in October. According to Refresh's district co-ordinator Cherry Clarke, "23 people in the district were able to become debt-free in the first 7 months of this year."

Meanwhile, planning is underway for 'Safe Sleep 2020', a programme to get homeless people off the streets and into temporary accommodation in churches, which last winter celebrated its goal of preventing any deaths among rough sleepers.

Recognising the need to take care of mental as well as physical health, Refresh ran a weekly 'Healing Rooms' programme, with volunteers on hand at St Adhelm’s in Radipole and a team at a coffee shop in Dorchester, offering prayers and counselling to help those with troubled minds. Due to current restrictions, the programme will continue on an experimental basis via Zoom.

To promote spiritual support for all the programmes, there is a one-hour 'Refresh Praise' Zoom session on the last Sunday of every month, combining hymns and prayer. The first session will be at 7pm on 27th September.

Summing up, Cherry Clarke says:

“Refresh represents the Church of Weymouth and Portland in Action.

“We are more than an organisation or a charity, we are a unity movement with a passion for God to be in Weymouth and Portland.”