Churches across the Diocese of Leeds are opening their doors this winter as part of the “Warm Welcome” campaign which aims to address the issues of the cost of living crisis, as well as countering loneliness and isolation.
In 2022, around 500 warm spaces were registered across the area including in over 70 diocesan churches, and the contribution of the church was recognised both locally and nationally.
The national “Warm Welcome” campaign aims to turn poverty and isolation into warm and local connection, with the aim to see everyone be able to “access a warm and welcoming space in their local community, to connect with others, make new friends, and feel part of your community”.
Recommending the campaign the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell said: “Sadly, what began as a cost-of-living crisis has simply become the new normal for many.
“Millions of people will look ahead to this winter with fear and anxiety, wondering how they are going to cope with high living costs.
“That is why I am proud to endorse the Warm Welcome campaign this winter.
“But a warm welcome isn’t only about the temperature.
“It is about kindness and community, giving people the chance to be seen and known, to belong and to be part of something.
“It is about celebrating the God-given value and dignity of every single person, finding hope and community together.
“But of course none of that will happen if people are cold.
“So, I warmly encourage all churches – alongside other faith groups and community organisations – to consider getting involved.”
Within the diocese many of those opening their doors are part of the Places of Welcome network, coordinated by Wellsprings Together.
Places of Welcome run on a similar ethos to Warm Welcome spaces all year round and many parishes are part of both networks which helps publicity of the space and allows them to access ongoing support.
One example of a church opening as a Place of Welcome and joining the Warm Welcome campaign is St Richard’s Church in Seacroft in the Leeds Episcopal Area.
The Revd Canon Anne Russell, Team Rector and Area Dean of East Leeds said: “Our Place of Welcome has given our church families the opportunity to minister to our wonderful community.
“Together we share good food, conversation and laughter.
“It is integral to our churches in East Leeds.”
Linda, who attends the Place of Welcome, shared: “I look forward to my Thursdays at St Richard’s - good food and company without feeling pressure to pay.”
Peter Smith, Places of Welcome Coordinator at Wellsprings Together, said: “We’re so encouraged by the parishes opening up their doors and welcoming members of their community and offering hospitality and welcome.
“It’s our privilege to be able to support our Places of Welcome with the particular challenges of this winter with training, advice, funding support, and a friendly face supporting their work.
“We’ve also been working with local authorities helping them to be aware of the contribution of the church and other faith groups at this time.”
To find out more about the “Warm Welcome” campaign, or to find out about the support of Wellsprings Together and the Places of Welcome network, please contact Peter Smith on firstname.lastname@example.org.