Under the direction of Bishop Stephen Gregory and ward JustServe specialist, Brother Anson Bentley, the members of the Bridlington ward in the York Stake, have all worked together in setting up a soup kitchen for the homeless at the chapel. The soup kitchen runs every Thursday evening. Bishop Gregory said, “It's been quite an experience really, we have got the attention of local councillors who come and help us, we have members who have not been active for many years, who have decided that would like to come and help at the soup kitchen and they haven’t been near the building in years. Because of the current COVID-19 restrictions we have had to turn offers of help away and limit five volunteers each week otherwise we would have the chapel full of people wanting to help.'
Brother Bentley said, 'We have had pretty much the whole of the ward's active membership participate in the soup kitchen in one way or another. Thanks to the Bridlington Ward membership, the soup kitchen has been very well supported.”
Brother Joshua Dixon-Harrison, assistant to Brother Bentley, has been key in getting members organised, communicating to many other volunteer organisations, making lots of phone calls and reminding everyone what’s happening each week. Joshua was himself homeless for a time and so knows first-hand the needs of someone who is homeless. Joshua has also been encouraging the ward members to register with JustServe, and to regularly check what are the service opportunities, and get involved in them. Joshua said, 'The idea of JustServe is to work with others in our community and to serve our local community.'
The Ward has had tremendous support from Bridlington town councillor Andy Walker, who was really excited about the service being offered by ward members. He comes to the soup kitchen most Thursdays to help and has promoted the project in council meetings, helped put ward members in contact with other organisations in the area, and has become a good friend to Brother Bentley. Most of the members of Bridlington Ward have been able to meet and get to know Cllr Walker and become friends with him.
The Kingfisher Cafe, a local group who looks after the homeless in Bridlington, has been a great help in getting the word out to those in need, and has also mentioned JustServe and the Church on their Facebook page, which has resulted in a lot of positive feedback. Other non-profit organisations, Emmaus Hull & East Riding, and East Riding Voluntary Action Services have also helped get the word out about the soup kitchen. These friendships and connections have enabled ward members to offer their services to the community as a resource for future service projects.
The soup is usually made by members. When I visited, Brother David Richmond had made the most delicious butternut-squash soup that I have ever tasted. The Community Cookery School in conjunction with The Haven in Bridlington have also provided excellent soup on several occasions.
Bishop Gregory said: “At the end of 2019 I gave a talk and spoke about the lawyer who tried to trick the Saviour, asking which was the greatest of all the commandments. The Saviour replied, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ (Mathew 22 37-39). These words have sunk deep into my heart, and this is the reason I decided to support and push and cajole people into the JustServe programme, and I think this is why it has been a success, because people have captured the vision.”
The soup kitchen is simply a place for vulnerable people to come and have a hot cup of soup, and chat with people who want to support them and make friends.