Anne Wooldridge reflects on how opening church doors and providing space for creativity, companionship, fun and food can bring Jesus’ healing to the community around them.

“Generosity breeds generosity,” observes Anne.

“St Thomas’ in York is one of many churches that regularly run the ‘Peaced Together’ course, which supports women on a personal journey from brokenness to hope, using a variety of craft projects.

“Over the course of ten weeks, we marvel at how women open up, make new friends, grow in confidence and find a way to make peace with the past, and although the course isn’t overtly Christian, we regularly see God at work, bringing healing. We’re hugely blessed to have a very creative church warden, who gives her time generously to run the course again and again. We keep the charge for the course to £10 to try to make it affordable for all, but we never allow the cost to be a barrier and will offer the course for free to anyone who’s in need.

“When the course finishes, we find participants are often sad to see it end, so they’re encouraged to come along to the ‘Creative Café’, which we also run in church every Tuesday morning. This is open to all, and we never cease to wonder at how Jo, who leads it, comes up with a different fun activity to do every week, which is always within the capabilities of even the least creative amongst us!

“Most of the people who come to the Creative Café live alone and, as well as an opportunity to do something creative, they find companionship and a listening ear. It’s been wonderful to see a real community forming over the last couple of years, and now some of the people who come also socialise outside of the café. We provide free drinks and cakes, but we find that generosity breeds generosity and lots of people make donations or bring cakes along to share. We also like to keep track of everyone’s birthdays and celebrate together so that no-one who lives alone will have a birthday that goes by unnoticed.

“As well as our Creative Café, we also have a Community Café once a week. Due to our unique location next door to the Probation Service, we have lots of contact with people who are on probation, and we love to offer them a warm welcome, a free bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, and the chance to chat over a game of dominoes or Jenga.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to come alongside people who are often struggling in life, and to be able to share God’s love and healing with them, simply by opening our doors and welcoming them in.”