Spotlight on Chesterton Methodist Church

It is through the generosity of our centre hosts that Cambridge City Foodbank is able to provide the services currently available to communities across Cambridgeshire. This month, we spoke to Deacon Ian Murray, minister of the Chesterton Methodist Church, about supporting local people and families, while developing a new building and growing faith, hope and love in one of the most deprived areas in the city.

How did Chesterton Methodist Church’s partnership with Cambridge City Foodbank begin?

Roughly a decade ago, after seeing that the community in East Chesterton was struggling, the Methodist Church decided to invest heavily in supporting the needs of this area. A portion of the investment was allocated to grant funding to support the work of a permanent Deacon and so my role at the church began in 2013. After establishing good links with other churches and groups in the area, and with the assistance of other local clergy, arrangements were made and Chesterton Methodist Church was identified as a suitable location for a Foodbank centre.

What have been your highlights in facilitating a Foodbank at the church?

One of the main benefits for me is that we are able to be good neighbours to those in our community and challenge injustice; running the Foodbank has become an integral part of our growth as a church and enables us to have a positive impact in many ways. The Foodbank also brings together volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds and faiths and allows all of us to find common ground while working for the common good.

What have been the key challenges faced by Chesterton Methodist Church since you started facilitating the Foodbank centre?

Our biggest challenge to date came in the form of the pandemic, as we were forced to close for a few weeks in March 2020. Thankfully, we were able to quickly find safe ways to resume usual activities, but compromises had to be made. One of the worst parts of this was losing our ability to offer the usual level of hospitality and warmth to visitors. We were very grateful when, as restrictions lifted, we were finally able to put the kettle on and start offering a cup of tea to visitors again. This simple gesture is critically important as it provides the judgement free welcome that everyone deserves.

Is there anything you’d like to do in the future to expand your partnership with the Foodbank in order to better support your local community?

At Chesterton, our primary focus is to continue playing our part to support Foodbank visitors, providing them with the reassurance that there will always be someone to help and understand them, particularly during such difficult times.

After the height of the pandemic, we expanded the amount of space available for the centre on Tuesday mornings. This session is now busier than ever and my fear is that this trend is going to continue. I am personally able to issue Foodbank vouchers and I have also seen the number of vouchers required increasing. In order to accommodate the rising demand, we may need to increase the number of volunteers on our team.

Do you run any similar initiatives to the Foodbank in the church?

We have been proudly working with Headway Cambridgeshire since October 2018. Headway uses the premises two days a week as a home for its Cambridge rehab hub for adults who have acquired a brain injury.

We are also in the process of delivering final plans for a new building on our site which will house a not-for-profit café. At the heart of the café will be a commitment to enable all areas of our community to enjoy the company of friends, provide opportunities for employment and also provide hope for those who are living in poverty or who are disadvantaged.