Taking place every Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 10am-12pm, the church opens up for coffee, cake and informal chats.
The mornings are put together by Church Wardens Claire Bennett and Helen Walker, who were approached about helping the community following the closure of the Rose Garden Café in Graves Park.
Claire says it was a natural move and built upon what they had in place already:
We did coffee mornings every Tuesday and on the second Saturday of each month. When the café at Graves Park closed down we were approached by a member here asking if we could open up a service to the community.
There are lots of people who feel isolated, so we were asked if we could open up to help. It was a case of ‘open the doors and they will come’. It’s only been advertised in church and on our blackboard, but it’s spread through word of mouth.
It’s been really successful. Lots of people here don’t come to church but have volunteered for lots of things during services and events.Claire Bennett – Church Warden
Around 20 people come to each session, but double that number attended earlier this month. All are welcome to come to the church including dogs, with many walkers taking the opportunity to bring their four-legged friends with them into the building.
Helen says the team are grateful for the help offered by regular attendees:
They help with tidying up the church yard as well as at events. One of the men here decided on the back of the coffee mornings to restart the Norton History Group! He also helps out with church events. We’ve had people come to the Remembrance Service and the Autumn Fayre, even though they wouldn’t normally attend a church service.
Some people who used to stop and chat with each other at Graves Park are now meeting up again here. We always wanted the older generations to meet the future generations, and the toddler groups we run help to facilitate that.Helen
Claire agrees that the impact has been positive from new people helping out:
They don’t want to be made a fuss of, but they do want to be included. They’re happy to get involved in anything and are the nicest group of people. The dogs that come are a lovely bonus as well! They get on with each other, and one week we had 11 of them lined up and sitting politely.Claire
During lockdown the church was the only building in the area that was open, with private prayer allowed with social distancing.
Claire and Helen both think having that space for people at a difficult time helped the community come together, and also kept them in touch with their local church.
Claire adds that St James Norton feels enriched by other’s experiences:
So many skills have been brought to the table by people from different walks of life, which is wonderful. This was never a way of taking away any of the customers who went to the old café; it’s just word of mouth that’s spread.Claire
It’s inspired us. From the very beginning we concentrated on the things we could do and just went with it. We felt it was worth a go even if not many people turned up, but we’ve been blessed with great numbers and a great fellowship of peopleHelen