A CHURCH initiative to keep Islanders who are struggling with the cost of living warm in the winter has had a ‘huge impact’, Jersey’s Dean has said.
The Very Rev Mike Keirle said families had been coming to the Town Church every day, as had ‘one or two other people who are really vulnerable’.
Speaking this week at the conclusion of the Town Church’s Warm Spaces programme – in which donations helped keep the heating running through the winter period to provide a refuge for Islanders struggling with the cost-of-living crisis – Mr Keirle said: ‘It’s been a place for them to meet and talk, or just to sit. And a team has provided the space for that to happen. It’s been a good thing, a very good thing, particularly in the light of the economic crisis.’
He added that although the church would remain open, attention was now shifting to the question of how its external space could be used in a more creative and ecological way during the summer months.
‘We’re planning a few programmes and projects to make the area a bit more visible. I walked by with the Bishop [of Salisbury] on Tuesday. There are railings all around the church and at 6 o’clock at night the gates were shut because if we don’t it can be problematic to say the least.
‘But it’s not a good message that we are behind the bars and no one can get in, so I really want to open up that space and be creative.
‘I’m hoping that people will use it creatively. It’s their church, or the ratepayers church, so we want it to be available to the people of St Helier,’ he said.
During the Warm Spaces initiative, which began before Christmas, the Town Church provided not only a heated environment for those who might otherwise have struggled to keep warm but also a place where Islanders could work – with the aid of free WiFi – or simply come and eat their lunch. During one midweek Communion service there were 30 people all under the age of 30 having lunch while the Dean conducted the ceremony.
‘They sat there perfectly silently and respectfully whilst we did the service. It was lovely,’ Mr Keirle said.
Reflecting on the role of the church in modern life – at a time when the 2021 census for England and Wales revealed that Christianity was now a minority religion – the Dean said that it offered an antidote to the polarisation that was often engendered by social media.
‘It’s easy for it to become us and them. It becomes that very quickly. In a lot of our culture, in the way we express ourselves, we set ourselves against each other very quickly. I think the church’s role is to break some of that barrier down and to build community. One of the things I see myself doing in the public space is building community, and connecting people, saying: “Come into the church – we are here for you – we are not here for us.” We are not trying to be privileged; we are trying to serve you. Tell us what you need,’ he said.
– The Dean reflects on the significance of Holy Week in his Easter message on page 9 of today’s JEP.