A number of churches are providing welcoming warm spaces for people in their communities this winter.
A host of churches in the Free Church of Scotland are opening their buildings during the week to provide support for those struggling with the rising cost of living, those who may be on their own or those who work from home. Over the past few months, spaces of this kind have opened up in community centres, meeting rooms, and churches across Scotland.
In the Inverness area, Smithton-Culloden Free Church and Free North Church are running ventures, each covering a different area of the city. Smithton-Culloden Free Church is running a Warm Space, Warm Place on Monday afternoons.
Rev Alasdair MacLeod said: “We are starting small, but we know it’s going to grow.”
He highlighted the need for ventures like this in Inverness, adding: “The climate here is very dry but very cold!”
The Warm Space, Warm Place events are a follow up of weekly Community Food Nights held every Thursday evening at the church. Around 100 to 150 people come to these community food nights each week. Youth groups are also held at the church on those evenings.
Free North Church has been running warm hubs on Mondays and Fridays since November. Rev Angus Macrae said: “It’s definitely been more popular than we expected.”
The church also signposts people to other services such as the foodbank. Many providers in the third sector are offering support in the city, said Angus.
Carrie Marlow, Women’s Pastoral Worker, said: “We want to be a place of warmth and safety for all who need it. Though November was unseasonably warm we still saw many folks come through the door. Some are homeless, some are struggling to make ends meet, some needing somewhere to work, some looking for company, some needing somewhere warm to wait for their bus or train.
“We hope and pray that when they come into the Warm Hub they find not only warmth in terms of temperature but a warm welcome. With hot drinks, toast and biscuits on offer people make themselves at home, read the paper, do a jigsaw, or settle down for a chat. Some make use of the shower facilities, and many have appreciated the donations of warm clothes to take away.
“There are a few folks who come in regularly and it has been lovely to get to know them more, and to see them feel that church is a safe place for them to be. Some wish to talk about Christian things, some have taken away a Christian book, hopefully all of them have experienced some of the welcome that Christ offers to all who come to him.”
She added: “Please do pray for the Warm Hub, for those who come week by week to know comfort and help in their struggles. Give thanks for the many who volunteer their time and pray for opportunities and boldness to speak of Christ. Feel free to pop down on a Monday or Friday between 10am and 2pm to see what is going on and have a cuppa.”
St Columba’s Free Church in Edinburgh has also opened as a Warm Welcome Space. It is one of several venues in Edinburgh that has opened to give people the chance to chat, sit alone, work, knit or read. They are working in rotation with other venues nearby to ensure that people have places to use on weekdays. St Columba’s Free Church of Scotland is open as a Warm Welcome Space between 2pm and 4pm on Thursdays until 30th March.
Rev Derek Lamont, of St Columba’s Free Church, said: “Around 10 to 15 people come in each week. We have newspapers out for people to read although we find that they all sit and talk with the volunteers.”
Hope Church, Blackwood & Kirkmuirhill is open as a Warm Space between 10am and 3pm every Wednesday and Thursday until the end of February. It has been running since December. Free tea/ coffee is provided along with free wi-fi access.
Broughty Ferry Presbyterian Church in Broughty Ferry is open on Tuesdays from 2pm to 4.30pm.
Bon Accord Free Church, in Aberdeen, is open as a Warm Space on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm.
Dornoch Free Church has a space called The Living Room open on Thursdays from 12pm to 3pm.
Many churches open during the week either as a cafe space or informally for people to pop in for a cuppa and to spend time with others.
Do keep an eye for details of Warm Spaces available in your local area.