Extending a Warm Welcome to communities

20 March 2024

Over the winter, the cost of living crisis continued to bite into stretched household budgets and Methodist Churches across the Connexion were on hand to provide a warm, welcoming space for their communities. Warm Welcome, the new name for the Warm Spaces initiative, emphasised the need to tackle isolation, as well as the cold, by building connections and community.

Over 280 Methodist Churches were registered with the Warm Welcome website for the winter. Many more simply opened their doors and events to those who were cold and in need of company.

The Methodist Church was second only to the Church of England in providing the most Warm Welcome spaces in the UK. However, measuring the scheme’s impact is about far more than the numbers says Andrea Campanale, Mission Projects Officer, who takes care of the Warm Welcome initiative for the Methodist Church. “It’s about local churches making a difference in their communities. Although kick-started by the cost of living crisis and the shock rise in energy prices last winter, research showed that the value of Warm Welcome spaces was in combatting loneliness and isolation.

“Neighbours who have lived close to each other for years have got to know each other at a Warm Welcome space and have grown into relationships that now provide support and company”

Many of the Warm Welcome spaces are becoming community hubs. Open all year round, one idea being considered is how Warm Welcome could provide essential respite from the heat as summer temperatures increase to dangerous levels.

The Warm Welcome Space at St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Sheringham is open each Tuesday between 10am and 3pm to welcome friends from the local community. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate are offered all day and at lunchtime there is soup and a roll.

Barbara George is a church steward and one of the volunteers for the Warm Welcome at St Andrew’s Methodist. “We have a table of ladies whose friendship has grown and they enjoy playing a game of cards together or a game of bingo. Two gentlemen enjoyed playing backgammon and chess together. It became obvious that as well as people having a warm safe space to meet, the need to challenge social isolation was especially important.”

Those who used the space were keen to share how it made a difference to their lives. “I’ve enjoyed sitting and chatting; having people to listen; lovely soup and unlimited tea and coffee,” said one. Another commented, “Our flat suffers from being in a very cold building. The social interaction has been equally beneficial and we have had lots of fun and laughter with the obvious health benefits that brings.”

A poem by someone who received a Warm Welcome at a Methodist Church.

Tuesdays are the highlight of our week

When with friends we get the chance to speak

About where we've been and what we've done

And the fun we have is second to none.

So thanks Julie for all you do

For the coffee, the tea and lunches too

I know we may cause you a bit of strife

But having friends gives us a purpose in life