Nourishment for the body as well as the spirit?
Robert Ashton wonders if there is scope for our parish churches to provide a further service for their local communities.
Bread and wine are at the heart of the Christian tradition, but one church goes further than just offering wafers and communion wine to the faithful few. St Helen’s Parish Church in Grindleford, in Derbyshire’s appropriately named Hope Valley, have a community-owned shop based in what was their vestry.
Run by a group of local volunteers, the shop provides artisan bread, groceries, frozen food and locally made jams and pickles, as well as freshly brewed coffee and cakes which locals and visitors alike enjoy while sitting at tables in the churchyard. The only village shop had closed some while back, and the vestry-based shop saves people having to drive to do their shopping.
Norfolk already has a number of successful community-owned shops, including one at Little Plumstead that I helped set up a couple of years ago. National charity the Plunkett Foundation provides invaluable help and advice to communities wishing to set up a shop of their own, and with more than 300 in the network, who keep in touch and share tips via a Facebook group, you can quickly find the answer to almost any question.
Norfolk also has many rural villages that have a church, but no shop or regular bus service. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if some of those could open their doors during the week, and welcome local shoppers, as well as those seeking an opportunity for prayer? I suspect that if people regularly went to church to buy some milk and eggs, they’d actually feel more comfortable about the idea of coming along on a Sunday too.
The Plunkett Foundation and Allchurches Trust are hosting a free to attend online event at which you can see the shop at Grindleford Parish Church and hear from those running it. The event takes place at 2pm on Tuesday 28th September, and you can sign up on Eventbrite here.
Let’s move with the times in Norfolk and use our churches to provide more than just spiritual nourishment!
The photo above is courtesy of the Grindleford Parish Church website.
Robert Ashton is an author, social entrepreneur and Quaker.
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