Barbara Rigg reports on a fresh expression for older people in Stafford.
We should never assume that only in deprived inner city areas is there a need for the church to have neighbourly concern and involvement. In our experience at Berkswich Methodist Church we have found that in a relatively affluent leafy suburb of Stafford there are many people who feel isolated and lonely.
Forty years ago many young families moved into new housing in this area. The children are now grown and have flown the nest, leaving residents who, though elderly, still are eager for life and have much to offer.
We at Berkswich hope that in some small way we are helping to address the situation. Let me introduce: Berkswich Luncheon Club
It was about five years ago when two or three of us, quite independently, thought that a church luncheon club would be a good idea. Our minister, Jeff Reynolds, was enthusiastic. Some of us youngsters (we're all over sixty) who were to become the cooks attended the local college to gain qualifications in food safety; and we were ready to start.
We now have about sixty members and have had to start a waiting list, as we cannot physically cater for more. We serve a three course meal of good home cooked food at a cost of four pounds. (Our generation does not need Jamie Oliver to tell us what's good for us).
We have after lunch entertainment; very often provided by our own members. In school holidays grandchildren entertain with dance, juggling or magic tricks. Highlights of our year include the birthday celebration, a summer outing and a traditional Christmas dinner. Each year any excess income we give to a worthy charity.
Our guests are by no means all members of our worshipping community. Referrals and requests come from many quarters. However, we view the Luncheon Club as more than just a social gathering for the community. It was set up to be church in a totally different setting. Our aims are to be a church congregation that meets monthly on a Wednesday lunchtime and to offer the challenge of the gospel through our hospitality, conversation and service. For many of our regulars, the Luncheon Club is their church and we hope that it will continue to grow into an established church community within the existing church structures.
For the future, first of all we'd love a new kitchen. We would like to start to have a lunch fortnightly with two groups of guests; there are many people who could benefit and we don't like to have a waiting list. We have also thought of tea dances (after all we are the Victor Sylvester generation).
Our neighbours, the local comprehensive school are interested in sending some of their older pupils to help, as part of their social awareness programme.
Some of our members say:
Christian care and compassion; fellowship, conversation, entertainment; good food at a reasonable price; fresh flowers, real tablecloths and much more.
A monthly 'High Day' with delicious home cooked food served by lovely helpers in an atmosphere of warm friendship and good fellowship.
A welcome opportunity for us oldies to meet old and new friends. We are greeted by smiling workers in caps and aprons. We are grateful to all involved, including the men who give lifts when needed.