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The Big Feed Wythenshawe

First published on: 22nd August 2023

The Big Feed WythenshaweBig Feed Wythenshawe

Churches in Mission Community 5, Manchester South & Stretford Deanery, recently participated in an ecumenical ‘The Big Feed’ initiative.

Explaining what it’s all about, Revd Ian Fellows, Rector of the Wythenshawe Team, said:

"Everything is Big with a capital B these days, but I just wanted a low-key week of events from a few interested churches in Wythenshawe, offering a hearty meal for people struggling, and signposting them to Places of Welcome and other school holiday initiatives to offer food and activities."

“That was when a little hospitality began to grow. Churches Together in Wythenshawe had faded in recent years, but tackling food poverty - which they all do in all sorts of ways - was the catalyst for pulling together. Suddenly - it was like God's tipping point - the meetings drew in not just the usual suspects but more. The Methodists, the United Reformed Church, the King's Church, the Church of England, the Western Orthodox Church and representatives from the Roman Catholic Church pulled together with three aims in mind - a week of food-based events, thousands of flyers to signpost people to facilities, and a petition, which went hand in hand with the production of 50 massive banners, each featuring 1000 outlines of human beings, each representing someone in need in the wider Wythenshawe area."

"We want to make those numbers real, so we asked churches and schools and community groups to colour them in and make this scandalous poverty personal and visible. Local and national radio, television and newspapers dropped by to help us let people know that we're serious about caring, that the churches haven't gone away or turned a blind eye.”

Those banners are now encircling William Temple Church in the centre of Wythenshawe, reminding everyone that the Church is open for business and it is not taking the awful human tragedy of poverty lying down. "We had people from across the churches in our town centre every day, inviting passers-by to colour in people and to talk about the real-life stories of living in need. We expected - but were still shocked by - the stories of people working more than full-time yet still needing Universal Credit, and even then, still being short of money for food and heating. The cost in terms of mental health and the knock-on effects on physical health... they're just beyond measure."

The campaign and events were partly inspired by recent reports from Trussell and the Rowntree Foundation that revealed just how wide the gap is between Universal Credit and the actual cost of living. "When we started, there was a £35 shortfall per week for a single person living on Universal Credit - our local worker for Christians Against Poverty was getting people debt-free but advising them they'd be back in debt in just a few weeks."

The Big Feed indeed turned out to be big - the week saw hundreds of people accepting invitations to The Big Picnic and The Big Movie Night in Northenden, The Big Fruit Bowl in Northern Moor, The Big Bean Feast at St Luke's, The Big Lunch at St. Martin’s and The Big Finale - a fun day at William Temple that saw the largest attendance there at a community event in years.

"We will build on it," said Ian Fellows, "because poverty isn't going away anytime soon, and because we sat down to eat with our neighbours and people laughed and smiled and asked to volunteer with our projects. Wythenshawe is a thoroughly brilliant community where people help each other and point each other to the little bits of help we can offer."

“But all the glory needs to go to God - I didn't know what we were getting into and how God would propel us together and into this massive, glorious, exhausting week. If not for the company of Churches Together and the overwhelming grace of God, I think I might have packed in and gone home. I'm rather too fond of telling churches that we need to go big or go home - I've learned afresh to expect astonishing things from God and to undertake massive things for him."

Mission Community 5 in Manchester South & Stretford Deanery consists of: St. Luke’s, Benchill; St. John’s, Brooklands; St. Michael & All Angels, Lawton Moor; St. Wilfrid’s, Northenden; St. Richard’s, Peel Hall; William Temple, Woodhouse Park; & Grace Church, Brooklands

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