Weston Marketplace Helps Church Reach Out to Local Community

Weston Marketplace Helps Church Reach Out to Local Community

Weston Marketplace is a scheme run by Holy Trinity Church Weston and Southampton City Mission.  Similar to a food pantry, for a £5 membership people can select £30 worth of food.  

The Marketplace is in much demand.  Weston is a lower income housing estate on the east side of Southampton, within the 5% most deprived Anglican parishes in England.  Since opening last year, the marketplace has had around 1430 visits, given out over 18,000 items of food and helps on average 30 families a week and there is a waiting list.

Marketplace has provided a new way for the church to serve and engage with its local community and many connections have been made.  Over the last year several Marketplace members have come to faith and joined the church, with more than half a dozen people joining a recent bible course. 

Vicar of Holy Trinity Weston, Daron Medway said:  “Churches in poorer areas often find themselves priced out of mission, thinking that actually we can’t afford to do mission because our congregation is a poor congregation.   Some of the language around ministry to the poor is slightly problematic because we call it ministry to the poor rather than ministry by the poor.  So Marketplace has been a way for a church, which has a significant number of people who are what you would describe as poor, to actually do mission and ministry, rather than always being the recipients of mission and ministry.  So I would say that being able to do the Marketplace where poor people can serve other people who are struggling, has been great for the self-regard of the church.   They feel that they’re actually making a difference in their community, and they don’t feel priced out of mission by virtue of their poverty”.

There are a number of Marketplace schemes in churches across Southampton, each serving a set postcode area including Millbrook, Townhill and St Mary’s.  Weston is the most recent, with another planned in Thornhill.

There has been an increasing need for help in the last 18 months because of the cost of living crisis.  Weston Marketplace is at capacity with a waiting list of around 20 to 30 people. 

Members can choose a variety of items, frozen foods, fresh goods, pasta and tinned food.  Southampton City Mission obtain the food from a variety of sources including from supermarkets, charity Fare Share and some is bought wholesale. As well as having access to affordable food, members also become part of a community.   Marketplace includes a welcoming café with free tea and cakes and the chance for regular contact with a network of peers and friends as well as support from children and youth workers and church volunteers.  Members can also be signposted to other services in the community.  

Lauren visited Marketplace for the first time with 3 year old daughter Nancy. 

“It’s amazing to give people the opportunity to get fresh food at a reasonable price.  It’s going to help so much.  It would be quite difficult for us if this wasn’t here.  My partner is a tattooist and business is quiet because of the cost of living crisis.  Our weekly food shop has doubled in price recently.  I cry when I get to the till as it’s always more than we can afford.  I always like coming to the church.  It’s so welcoming.  There are playgroups at the church and I’d love to come along.  We moved here 3 years ago but don’t know many people so it’s nice to come along meet new people at the café as well.”

Sheila Darmanin is supervisor of Marketplace working alongside a team of volunteers who help in the café, welcome people on reception or interview new members.

“The need for this is great.  We have seen some people in dire straits.  This is the church reaching out and I would say at least a third of people who come to marketplace have now engaged with the church, either with youth groups, children’s groups, holiday clubs or church events.  One of our main objectives is to have community and to look after people both in a material and spiritual sense”. 

Tina, who has used Marketplace for a year presented volunteers with a thank you card at her last visit.

“This has been massive help for me.  We now care for four grandchildren so we had to give up our jobs to look after them so Marketplace has been so helpful.  We could have coped but the money we have saved has enabled us to give the children some treats.  I don’t come to church but everyone is so friendly and there is so much open to children here, that I hope in time they will come along and join one of the church clubs.”

Marketplace has clearly brought new people into church.  Holy Trinity has seen one new family unit join the church each week and numbers have doubled since lockdown. 

Daron Medway said:  “There are a significant number of people who have had no contact with the church at all and are now regular, active church members who would describe themselves as having become Christians.  It’s an absolute joy to see.  Sometimes it’s quite an emotional experience to see somebody’s journey from perhaps social isolation, through to full engagement in the Christian community.   As the church grows, our capacity to grow increases. As new people join, we can pioneer new activities.  One way to get people involved in church is to include them in mission.  The more the church is engaged in mission, the more it grows and the more it grows, the more it can engage in mission.”