WHOLE PARISH OPEN MEETING
Present: Canon John, Fr Pius, Danny Cannon (Chair) and 28 parishioners
Opening prayer led by Canon John.
Canon Lesley McCormack from St Peter & St Paul Church was welcomed to the meeting. Canon Lesley spoke about the establishment of their soup kitchen that had been operating for two years. The points she made included the following : –
• it took several months from the initial proposal to launch the service and involved taking advice from Environmental Health Officers, recruiting volunteers both from their parish and from other churches, and developing policies and procedures
• it was provided every Thursday throughout the year between 4 pm – 6 pm (although they would sometimes start serving at 3:30 pm). The time had been selected following advice to include those with addictions and to enable attendance of parents and children, although very few children came.
• from a low number to start with, there were now around 30 – 34 diners
• initial publicity had included posters in GP surgeries, at A & E and Charity Shops etc., emphasising that all were welcome
• it was run by 24 volunteers in 4 teams of 6, so that each team was on duty once every 4 weeks, with a pool of additional people who could be called in to cover sickness and holidays without making a regular commitment. The 4 week rota was considered to be the most that it was reasonable to expect from the volunteers.
• Anyone who came was fed. There was no means testing or other questions asked.
• At least one person on site must hold a Food Hygiene Certificate at Level 2, and so to cover eventualities each team having two people holding the qualification was preferable. Sometimes diners would ask to have a private word with someone. This was undertaken only by volunteers with a DBS disclosure who had information on other statutory and voluntary service providers so that referrals could be made. There was a strict policy of not providing cash. The diners were not questioned and they initiated all conversation
• at the beginning only vegetable soup and bread was served. No meat was used because of the additional hygiene requirements. The soup was cooked by volunteers at home and brought to the Parish Rooms for reheating. There was a choice of two soups, with 2 litres of each being available.
• the cutlery and crockery already provided in the Rooms was used. Pots and pans were also available although volunteers generally liked to use their own
• a tie in with FareShare had resulted in food donations being received from Tesco and an expanded menu, so that dishes like vegetable lasagnes and gratins and eggs on toast were now also offered depending on the food received
• donations of bread had been received from Café Bloc and there had been support from many others including Linnets Newsagents
• clothing, food parcels, sleeping bags and tents were also now made available, either through direct donations or in response to appeals for cash. Donations could be given to the Verger at St Peter & St Paul Church on Fridays.
• not everyone who volunteered to help was suitable – interviewing was recommended
• there had been very few problems of anti-social behaviour, and none that had required intervention by the volunteers. Closing time was respected by the diners
Lesley offered to provide copies of their policies and procedures, a contact for FareShare and details of other provision in the town.
It was agreed
• to hold a further meeting on Tuesday, 14th March at 7:30 pm to gauge interest and firm up proposals and to encourage as many as possible to attend
• that the Parish would pay for the Food Hygiene training (the next course provided by the Borough Council is on Monday, 20th March 9 am – 5pm at the Municipal Offices)
As agreed at the previous full Parish Meeting, further consideration was given to the topics discussed at that meeting and it was agreed
• to hold two general full parish meetings each year, with meetings for specific topics or proposals as and when necessary
• to take forward the proposed quarterly Mass and tea for housebound parishioners
• to consider organising events with participation by all the parish’s communities, possibly through the formation of a Social Committee.
• to make appeals for funds for specific purposes such as items in the maintenance programme (Danny and Bill both volunteered to make the appeals) that were otherwise unaffordable
• to reintroduce a financial summary report for the year
Canon John noted that Canon Law (Can 212) gave lay people the right, and sometimes the duty, to make their spiritual needs and views on the good of the Church, respectfully known to the Bishop. He referred to examples elsewhere of the large-scale merging of parishes and the damage this can do to communities. He suggested that the Bishops might be encouraged to think about alternative responses to the shortage of priests, for example the ordination of married men, the priestly ordination of Deacons or the ordination of men of good standing with more limited responsibilities as happened in Eastern Rite Churches.
Closing Prayer – Led by Canon John at 8:50 pm.