Diocese of Chichester

Mission Fund small grants award helps church deliver a warm space and food over Christmas

Don't be alone for Christmas or in a crowd where no one notices you. That is the message from St Mary’s Felpham. The church community hall is transformed into a winter wonderland in which everyone is invited

On 15 dec 2022

In Diocese of Chichester

By communications

Open Stable takes place on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day at St Mary's. 

The vicar John Challis said, “Come and be with others over Christmas. Perhaps you are on your own, perhaps you are cooking for 15 and no one is thinking of you in the kitchen, or perhaps you are a single parent and run out of ideas about what to do with your children, there is space in our Stable for everyone.

Last time we had the elderly playing games with the single parents whilst we helped them by looking after and entertaining their children on Christmas Day. Boxing Day was busy with many people from all over town who just wanted to meet others and get out of the house. Dads take the children out for a walk and pop in to chat with other dads whilst the children play.

Overnight we worked with Stone Pillow to care for the homeless. We try to simply be with people and help them through the season. As you may know, many cafes close over Christmas, most shops are shut. Some people still want to be somewhere and with others.

Christmas is not the idealised Christmas that we all imagine for everyone. For some being at home can be quite hard and having a space to get out even just for a short while. Not least this year it is a warm space with free food.

This year we will open from 10am to 8pm on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. We are staffed by a range of volunteers, some of whom would also be on their own at Christmas. Others just want to give their day to make other people’s day. They may come and help without any skills, but that doesn't matter, all are welcome.

We serve hot food, tea, and coffee but no alcohol. Food is free, and thanks to many kind local people and local supermarkets, we can serve hot food and keep the heating on.

This year we applied for a £500 grant from the diocesan Mission fund which is funded by the Benefact Trust and this has helped enormously and will allow us to be open longer, keep everyone warm and be more generous to our guests.

We start setting up two days before to transform the hall into a wonderland and it takes a few days to clear up. It is a huge project, but one loved by many. The last time we ran it a lady called from London to say she was a nurse and had to suddenly work, she couldn't get down to see her dad. Could we help? Her dad joined us, and we gave him a Christmas that was one full of people sharing, interested in him, and having fun. They loved it.

Late one evening I was exhausted from my services, and I slipped down to sit by the mock fire. A lady in another chair said something to me and we struck up a conversation. It turned out she was exhausted too from looking after everyone at her home and she just wanted some 'me' time. We sat in silence then and watched the flames together. After 30 minutes she got up and said THANK YOU, thank you so much, this is just what I needed to help me cope. On Boxing Day, the hall was filled with members of our own congregations and nonchurch people playing games and just relaxing together.

It is fun and its essence is to know that not everyone's Christmas looks like a Marks and Spencer’s advert but then M &S actually stands for Mary, Angel, and Shepherd and like Mary needing a place to be, we open the stable, like Angels the volunteers give up their Christmas to make others welcome and like the shepherds no matter whether you feel an outsider or not you are simply welcome.

Free Christmas lunch at Brighton church


A free Christmas dinner is going to be shared at St Mary Magdalen church in Coldean, Brighton on Christmas Day. The vicar, Rev Betsy Grey-Hammond said, “This is for people who otherwise will be alone on this day or who cannot afford to put their heating on and eat as well.”

The meal will be served at 2pm and you can contact Rev Betsy to book your place revbetsy@btinternet.com or call 07842608911