First ‘Place of Welcome’ for Medway with launch of café and shop

On Tuesday 4 September St. Francis of Assisi Church in Strood became Medway’s first ‘Place of Welcome’.

This is a national initiative which is committed to seeing every neighbourhood offer a place for people to find a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation if and when they need it.

Bishop Simon Burton-Jones official opened the café in the church, which will also include a fortnightly pop-up furniture shop run in partnership with Emmaus Medway – a charity offering a home and meaningful work to those who experienced homelessness and social exclusion.

Speaking about the project, Bishop Simon referred to recent statistic that suggest that one in twenty people in Britain feel very lonely most of the time and that perhaps unexpectedly, it was among 16 to 24 year olds that the highest proportion of loneliness was found: 

"This is such a simple idea. It was once said that being listened to, is as close to being loved by someone as to be indistinguishable from it. So the listening ear is the act of loving that this place will provide for people."

Vicar of St. Francis, Rev Sharon Copestake said:

“Like many towns across the UK, Strood faces challenges of loneliness and isolation. While St Francis has always been an important part of the community, we felt this was the next step for us in offering the whole area a place to meet that is warm and friendly; a place where people can come with friends or come alone.”

The café will be open every Tuesday in the church from 9am to 11.30am, where a hot drink and cake will always be available at no charge.

As part of the launch, a photo exhibition entitled ‘Community’, was also on display.

It included photos taken by the group Photography for Mental Health; whose members use photography as a way to strengthen and maintain good mental health.

The exhibition will raise funds for Mind locally and for the Places of Welcome cafe at St Francis.

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