‘Given Freely, Freely Given’ first opened in March 2015 but has expanded its services since the pandemic.
It operates out of the churches of Balby, Loversall and Wadworth, with the aim of improving people’s access to basic necessities, reducing isolation and boosting wellbeing.
Father Chris Bishop is the Assistant Curate for St Peter Warmsworth:
“The parish itself is one of the most deprived, and there are huge numbers of cases of domestic abuse. There’s a great physical need borne out of poverty, but also a great spiritual need.
“The real purpose of the project is to meet people’s needs by sharing the love of Jesus with people. One of the overarching themes of it is given freely, freely given. Everything that comes into the multibank is given away without any questions asked, which is quite different to how other organisations operate.
“We give away household items as well as food, such as microwaves, kettles, TVs, electrical goods and even ornaments. The giving is about the whole person and giving people some dignity, so we also provide clothes and bedding.”
The project helped 474 people in November of this year, with 178 of those families. There were 126 new visitors to the multibank in October 2022 and 69 the following month, with a majority of people needing help coming from Balby throughout the year.
Father Chris says he expects those numbers to grow again throughout December and into the New Year:
“From its conception, the whole project has grown month by month. We’re seeing record numbers of people needing help, and are looking at seeing about 500 people a week through the church doors – possibly the highest footfall in the Diocese. It’s an opportunity to share with people our gospel calling.
“We’d love to see the people who visit the multibank transformed, and so we’re establishing New Congregations as part of the project. I’m looking at starting café church in January, which is about providing a space which suits the context.
“The multibank has a free café, so a lot of its users would stay and chat afterwards in what is a familiar space to them. By starting café church we’ll hopefully have a comfortable setting that people feel at ease in.
“There’s a great social need here; people are anxious, lonely and fearful. We’ve found as a team that people are incredibly open about discussing their problems.”
A multi-agency approach is used for the project, with various professional organisations coming in on set days to help with things like benefits and housing.
The period from June to November 2022 saw an increase in the number of people from Black, Minority and Ethnic backgrounds seeking help, along with a rise in women needing support.
Father Chris says more funding is needed to keep up with demand:
“There have been so many additional things placing extra pressure on people, such as the pandemic and the cost of living. We’ve really seen a huge increase in people needing help. We’re trying to raise awareness as much as possible.
“Everything we do is funded by grants and donation, and the project is seeking £325,000 over three years because we have paid staff who help to bring that funding in. Heating the building is a massive outlay; you’re talking about £5,000 a month just to keep the building heated so at present it is often cold as we can’t face that bill. We’re facing extra pressures as a team.”
This Christmas individuals and organisations have been so generous with new toys and chocolates which can be given to children and there are hampers made up for families known to be in especial need.
The multibank is open every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10am-12pm. It’s hoped that the impact of the project can help to rebuild people’s lives and provide the support they need beyond those set days.
Father Chris says they want to feed people spiritually as well as physically:
“One of the great joys of the project is seeing people’s physical needs being met, but as a church leader we know that real transformation comes from hearing the good news. We really hope the café church will be an opportunity for people to hear the message, respond and pray with us.
“I sense keenly the brokenness in people’s lives, whether that’s poverty, past abuse or family collapse. I get a real sense that God wants to heal those people and to help them. We’re expecting that God will bring a fruitful healing ministry to help others. We want to transform people’s lives.
“Our congregation on a Sunday is very small, but we’re aware God wants to do something new. We want our worship to be engaging and to have a powerful experience that draws the community in.
“We have a volunteer base of over 50 people. Some are Christians but others aren’t. It feels like God is drawing people to the project and helping with resources, but we always need more resources!
“I want people to really pray for this. I don’t think there’s anything quite like this going off in the diocese, and to have so many people walking through those doors is an opportunity we can’t miss. We have to grasp it by the heart.”
You can support the Given Freely, Freely Given project in a number of ways:
- Give online with the link http://www.easydonate.org/GFFG001
- BACS transfer
- Cash when you visit
- Cheque payable to Balby St Johns PCC
- Time by volunteering
Contact on 07599 628324 or firstname.lastname@example.org