Church’s Warm Welcome boosts community links

A STALYBRIDGE church’s decision to offer people a Warm Welcome as a result of the cost of living crisis may actually see something good come from it.

Every Thursday, between 9am and 4.30pm, St Paul’s, on Huddersfield Road, offers all sections of the community the chance to enjoy others’ company while enjoying soup, hot drinks and toast.

Boosted by local businesses, including 5 a Day, supplying ingredients and pupils from nearby Copley Academy showing their cooking skills, what was born out of necessity may be repeated through choice.

St Paul’s Church is situated on Huddersfield Road in Stalybridge and hosts a weekly warm space for the community

And the Reverend Emma Hanley told how the offer has proved a hit.

She said: “We’ve another month now as we originally thought of doing it through the darkest winter months, November through until March.

“It’s grown and we’ve a pattern now where it’s quite quiet first thing in the morning but at about 11.30am people start arriving.

Jonathan Reynolds MP meets staff and pupils from Copley Academy

“Some come for the morning service then stay on and some just arrive then, have a brew then soup comes out at 12.

“We’ll get some mums who go to toddler group arrive, take their children up to play then come back down.

“We also have parents who come after school with their kids and they’ll do some homework while having some soup and toast.

“It’s a full day and hits different sorts of people.

“A lot of it is word of mouth. We may not know someone but they’ve come through someone we do. We’ve also had people turn up just because they’ve heard about it.

“We’re in discussions about what we’re going to do next and how we’re going to take it because as it gets warmer people like to be outside more.

Serving up delicious homemade soup and bread

“There always used to be a lunch club on a Thursday but we suspended that as we wanted to do something that’s free.

“We’ll probably bring that back but make it a bit cheaper so it’s a bit more accessible for people.

“And this is something we’d like to repeat. It’s been really successful and it’s a nice vibe. It’s a community getting together.”

Students tuck in for lunch

St Paul’s accessed the Tameside Winter Pressure Grant and charity The Florence Sharp Trust, which is housed in the church but not part of it, to cover the cost.

And Stalybridge’s MP Jonathan Reynolds believes what St Pauls’ has done could end u helping the community, despite the reason why it exists.

He said: “It’s a wonderful facility, you can hear the warmth of conversations.

“What’s particularly nice is you’ve got a local church working with local schoolchildren and local businesses to supply the food.

“The food comes, is turned into soup and people can have it. The whole range of people across the community can come, what a wonderful chance to bring people together.

“It’s about community, people coming together and building those links. You can always benefit from stronger community links.

“The cost of living crisis has meant there’s more of a need for some of these things but the way it’s being tackled and to have something like this, such a warm and welcoming thing to have in the community, is a positive.

“Ideally people wouldn’t have the need we’re seeing at the minute but the fact it’s being responded to in this way is to the absolute credit of people who put on this kind of offer.”


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