Warm Spaces

When I was the head teacher at a village school in the heart of East Sussex countryside, I had the privilege of leading a beautiful end of year tradition. On the last day of the summer term, all 170 of us would walk a mile along back lanes, through hop fields and meadows, to the parish church. There we would celebrate the children’s achievements and say goodbye to the year 6 pupils. In my memory it was always a warm and beautifully sunny day.

Each year, I spent time carefully considering what I would say to the children and especially the ‘Leavers’. I always liked to base my message on a Bible verse, and I can still remember the first time, when I chose Philippians chapter 4 verse 8.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

These words penned by St Paul 2000 years ago are timeless. How we feed our thinking is important. Whenever I choose to notice the good things around me, I always feel better. If I see too much of the TV news, I feel worse.

And so, I’d like to tell you about Warm Spaces, a good story.

Warm Spaces were created last year as a response to the Cost-of-Living Crisis and soaring energy bills. Some commentators saw them as just another symbol of Britain’s social and economic decline. But the lessons from last winter show that through the creativity of local volunteers, Warm Spaces provided much more than just places to keep warm. Instead, they were places of connection and belonging.

Stories from Warm Space guests and volunteers demonstrated that something as simple as a regular community meal could have a deep impact.The Warm Spaces evaluation report found that Warm Welcome Spaces reduced chronic loneliness amongst guests from almost 40% to just 6%.

In the end, the Warm Welcome Campaign supported more than 7000 Warm Spaces, around half of them run by churches. These include the Church Urban Fund's Places of Welcome. Collectively they received almost 2.5 million visits.

David Barclay the coordinator of the Warm Welcome Campaign emphasises the point that “Churches are far more than buildings – they are communities of hope. We have an enormous opportunity to open our buildings as places of warmth and welcome. And in doing so, make a lasting difference to those who need both.”

Churches that want to offer a warm space can register for free on the Warm Welcome Campaign website and access a wealth of resources.

That’s something to think about!