If the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted anything it’s the necessity for churches to work together in Reading’s local communities to develop stronger partnerships with Christian social action groups that cover a locality or the whole town. Several such models have developed including Whitley Salt – a partnership between Christian social action groups working in south Reading seeking to work together for the benefit of local people.
In the same way, church leaders in 7 churches across Earley and Lower Earley came together to form the Earley Help Hub to respond to the immediate needs of their community arising from the pandemic. These hubs have developed and continue to develop organically in parts of the town and provide a single point of contact for their local communities and other local agencies.
As the pandemic continues to impact our town and nation, the Earley Help Hub have identified 2 key priorities that are emerging which are:
1. Economic recovery (debt management, mentoring and help to find work, food shares, food banks, meal provision, job clubs) – how do we support individuals, business and the economy in Reading as the furlough schemes end?
2. Mental health and wellbeing ( befriending, mental health support and signposting, places to be, outdoor church, walking groups, activity groups and events, counselling, courses) – how do we help individuals and families better cope, particularly post-Covid?
How can we organise and mobilise effectively to address these and the many other needs we are already meeting as part of the wider church in Reading?
We really want to see these themes supported and underpinned by effective partnerships between churches and between churches and social action organisations. We are seeing real interest and intention in other parts of the town to come together in the same way and so are seeing local Hubs as a potentially effective delivery model. This would inform the way we plan to work together in respect of the priorities identified and build on momentum from early mobilisation during the initial lockdown period.
Clearly we have come fantastic models of how to run these Hubs and as we grow more we can share best practice and provide support to each other so that Hubs become centres of excellence and powerful routes to bring the whole gospel to the whole town through the whole church.
At the moment the Earley Help Hub is actively recruiting new volunteers to the following list of tasks:
- food preparation and delivery
- picking up prescriptions
- telephoning isolated vulnerable people to check on their wellbeing
- prayer support
- preparing meals for schools
- collecting food from donors
- wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts and food parcels
- hub administration
- running or supporting courses eg Alpha, Money Matters, etc
- transporting and accompanying to appointments (Covid permitting)
- hosting drop-in sessions in churches (Covid permitting)
No doubt the coronavirus crisis has brought its challenges, but as these stories show, it has precipitated change and renewal. Standing together, facing reality and taking action requires courage and community. We hope the hub model creates opportunity for people of faith to lead with renewed determination.
We would love to see local hubs develop or grow from existing networks of relationships across the whole Reading area. Imagine how powerful it would be as a demonstration of the unity of God’s people working together in strategic and coordinated ways and connected to every community in our town.