Five Minute Focus is a way of informing people about some of the amazing activities that go on at Emmanuel and inspiring people to think about what God might be calling them to in their own life. Over 7 weeks this term we have been interviewing inspirational people from our congregation and this page includes some of the highlights from those conversations. Enjoy!
Week 7 – Sally Bruce and Chris Wilson were interviewed about the Floating Shelter
Tell us about the shelter. This is our 16th year. It is called the Floating Shelter because it moves across the borough between churches from night to night between November to March. Our motto is” Offering hope to the homeless through faith in action”. Well over 30 churches are involved in volunteering.
There are up to 14 guests male and female referred by agencies who work with homeless people.
What’s the best thing about the shelter? Having heard stories of what happens to those rough sleeping – some have been attacked, their belongings stolen – it’s knowing we provide a warm, dry, safe place to stay and making them feel we care when their lives aren’t going well.
Where have you seen God at work? It’s great when you get to know people well enough to see them come out of their shells. We had one young man, who, when I was first introduced to him, was extremely anxious and nervous. He’d become homeless the day before and sleeping out, with all that that entails had been a very big shock for him, because he had never been in such a situation. The volunteers of the shelters made him feel that people cared and he became comfortable enough to share some of his story. In fact, he liked us so much that he kept coming back to visit even after he’d moved into accommodation. I’ve seen him a few times since and he tells me that he occasionally attends one of the other Shelter churches, nearer to where he now lives. He also wants to come and help out next time. Over the years several guests have wanted to give something back by volunteering for the shelter and a few have started attending one or other of the host churches.
What inspired you to get involved? I was previously prejudiced about homeless people – I would crossover the road to avoid them. It was big challenge to, as they say, “step out of your comfort zone”. I found out that for some people becoming homeless can happen very quickly – the loss of a job meaning inability to pay next month’s rent, relationship or family breakdown and then a quick spiral into decline with the risk of addictions and loss of self‑worth. I have often heard it said by others who work or volunteer with the homeless ”but for the Grace of God go I” which is so true. I was then approached to be a Trustee of the charity CCFS representing Emmanuel which is an honour but also a challenge with many churches involved and difficult issues to overcome. It is often frustrating, but I have been encouraged and supported through practical support and prayer which seems to surround the shelter.
How can people get involved? Lots of different ways – we host the shelter on Tuesday evenings (and nights!)/Wednesday mornings, from January to March, so we need help to set up, welcome, chat to guests, cook meals, stay overnight, clear up in the morning and do laundry, praying for volunteers and guests. If anybody is interested in helping in any way, please contact either of us (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
Week 6 – Sylvena Farrant was interviewed about Rendezvous
Tell us about Rendezvous. The aim is for people to know Life more Abundant (John 10:10.) release from darkness and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:1-3.)
Seniors so often are lonely, bored, unable to go away for a break, every day is often the same and they have/do suffer many losses of various kinds. Furthermore everything seems to close down in August. Hence there is need for Rendezvous or “Holiday at Home”. A hot lunch is provided and various crafts, games and food for thought from the bible between the courses of the meal. We need to know there are people who care and a God that cares, even more, for us all in the nitty gritty of life and has an eternal purpose for each one of us. In the afternoons there is a quiz one day, a film the next and a concert on the last day.
Over the 3 days of the Summer Rendezvous we endeavour to provide for those who like their brain stretched and those who don’t! There are so many different activities, including recently massage and the Reflection zone. We hope to provide another music workshop next year. Many who come are finding life difficult, have lost their confidence in doing things and need encouragement, purpose and hope and perhaps they’ll make a new friend. When we find that we cannot do the things we used to we need to know God never puts us on the scrap heap. So many are afraid to try new things in case they fail but with encouragement will have a go and oh what joy when they see that they can still do something, and often what seemed impossible. In the music workshops some had never ever played before (they didn’t even know Belleplates existed) but here they were producing music as a team, even if they had never ever learnt to read music. Then they found themselves, on the last day sitting up front and actually playing in the concert! Engage, encourage and achieve!
It galvanises the body of Christ into action because we need so many willing to give up their time and use their talents to enable Rendezvous to happen. This is wonderful as folk from all 3 services combine to work together for God’s glory, and for the extension of His kingdom. It’s not just ministry TO the elderly but ministry OF the elderly and of course younger people too. Our guests also teach us many things.
Mini-Rendezvous happens 2 or 3 times a year to keep the vision alive and has the same aims but is just for a day, with a light lunch and is run by a separate team. The next one is soon – Tuesday 12th November.
What is the best thing about Rendezvous? Seeing God working through people, whether helpers or guests, people discovering they have gifts they didn’t know they had. One lady as she left this summer said that it was the best day she could remember having in all her years!! The housebound who contribute – that always gives me joy. Then there are those who want to go further in finding out more about the Lord or want to start reading His word.
Where have you seen God at work? Countless answers to prayer – not least in bringing such a team together, without which it could not happen, the atmosphere of love, joy and peace. The thrill of seeing people enjoying it all, in some cases “lighting up” and of volunteers feeling they have gained far more than what they have given, finding such joy in serving the Lord. God is no person’s debtor!
I want to say a huge thank you to my great God and Saviour and to all who contribute in any way, big or small.
What inspired me to get involved? Seeing the need, being asked to help and realising I could make a small contribution. Praise Him.
Week 6 – Clare Fillingham was interviewed about Caterpillars
Tell us about Caterpillars. Caterpillars is a brand new pre-school group meeting once a month for children with additional needs and their families.
What has inspired you to set this up? Caterpillars has grown out of a particular friendship with a mum at Bumps and babies, which is a baby group we run weekly here at Emmanuel. This mum came along to bumps but as the months rolled on it became more apparent to her that her child wasn’t developing in the same way as her peers. It was a shock to her and not something she had anticipated as a parent. It was hard to see her struggle. So this mum was on my heart and I began to plan a new group where she would feel that she belonged and that was catered specifically to them. I applied for a grant and got that – thank you diocese- and then met up with some friends who have expert knowledge in the world of additional needs. They advised me what to buy for our group.
Where have you seen God at work? God has been wonderfully at work in providing support from volunteers who so selflessly have given up their time to help me. Lots of people have expressed enthusiasm for this group and I look forward to them sharing their expertise with us over the coming months. Friday was particularly special as we had our first meeting. The mum came with her daughter and her husband and they absolutely loved it. They were a bit overwhelmed that we had tried to put their needs first. They couldn’t quite get over how this community here at Emmanuel wanted to go the extra mile for them. The mum is now fully committed to helping us too and being part of the team, which is exciting! My favourite moment was watching the little girl joyfully play with the toys we had chosen. Very special!
How can we pray for this new group? Please do pray for us over the coming months that we grow in numbers and that the right people get to hear about Caterpillars. We want to be a useful and supportive place where we can show God’s love to people who need it. And if you would like to bake a cake for us from time to time, we wouldn’t say no!
Week 5 – Carol Petley was interviewed about Waggy Tails.
Tell us about Waggy Tails? There are 4 main groups of people at Waggy Tails. The parents love to come along and chat to other parents, the members who come along and train dogs, the buddies who are recruited from local secondary schools and come along to befriend the members and the dog owners who very kindly bring along their dogs and make the whole group very special.
The members can do an obedience class, do a Vet check, play dog pairs or dog bingo, read to a dog and make a memory book or do some agility.
We asked one of the parents to tell us what’s the best thing about Waggy Tails, and this is her response:
Hello! I’m Harriet and I’m autistic. I’m mother to a 14 year old autistic daughter – C. We both have Aspergers which sometimes makes it difficult for people to know that we are autistic.
I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for Waggy Tails. I am grateful every Wednesday that Waggy Tails exists, and I am grateful on all the other days in between too.
Before we joined Waggy Tails, C was struggling with life. She attends mainstream school, and had no friends, high anxiety and was getting bullied so severely that the school was, and still is, keeping her in isolation for her own safety. She was receiving absolutely no support for her autism, and couldn’t handle the noisy classrooms, the lunch time queues, children jostling her in the corridors, the comments that the other girls made, and she was fraught with anxiety all the time.
We joined Waggy Tails in January 2019 and C loved it from the start. It was the first time that she has been to a place where she didn’t have to mask her symptoms. It was the first time that she had found a place where she could fit in without being judged. C feels safe at Waggy Tails. There is no way that I can articulate how much difference it makes to a child to have a ‘safe place’ to go. It has been an absolute lifeline for us.
I’m pleased to say that school has improved slightly for C, but Waggy Tails is still the highlight of C’s week. She often says to me, “I can get through school today, because I know I have Waggy Tails at the end”.
I can’t thank Carol and Sarah enough for the hard work they put into Waggy Tails. Not only do they find and screen dogs and owners, they organise the weekly sessions, they make the children feel welcome, and they find teenagers who are willing to volunteer as “buddies”.
I can’t even get teenagers to work for money, but they get teenagers to work for free.
The buddies are the same age, and they become friends to the children, and for girls like my daughter, who are desperate to have a friend, it is invaluable.
At Waggy Tails, they also think about the parents. Whilst C is downstairs, I get to relax on the sofa, and the lovely Chao makes me the best coffee. For one hour, I get to sit and chat to the most amazing group of women that I could ever have hoped to meet. We chat about our children, we compare disability services, we talk about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s a lie. We haven’t ever talked about drugs or rock ‘n’ roll.
We support each other. If we’ve had a rough day or rough week or rough year, then we know we have our own safe space to offload. It’s like therapy.
Where have you seen God at work? When Jesus walked on earth, He hung out with people who found life difficult. We have lots of people who find life difficult at WTs and Jesus loves each one. I remember an older member who couldn’t speak when he first joined us. I would sign to him and he would sign back. After a few months he had grown hugely in confidence and started initiating conversations with me and with others on the team. It was fabulous to see.
What inspired you to start Waggy Tails? My daughter has epilepsy and learning disabilities and her life completely changed when we bought our first dog. I saw first-hand how a dog could change someone’s life. Waggy Tails is unique dog club because the members don’t need to own their own dog to be able to come.
Week 4 – Simon French was interviewed about his voluntary work with West Croydon Refugee Centre
Tell us a little about your work locally with refugees? I have been volunteering at the West Croydon Refugee Centre on a Tuesday morning, I am also part of a group from the Centre who visit people who have recently arrived in the UK and live in temporary accommodation. One afternoon a week I teach English at a men’s English class at St Augustine’s Church.
What do you like about this work? I like being part of peoples’ welcome to the UK, hearing a little of their life stories and helping them adjust to their life in a new country. I often have the opportunity to talk to them about my faith in response to questions they ask me.
Where have you seen God at work? God is bringing people from many different nations to Croydon, including in some cases, people who may have never met Christians before. It is exciting to see how needs are met and how Christians are involved in this work.
What inspired you to get involved? We lived overseas for a number of years and at times, we experienced what it can feel like to be living somewhere where you are unfamiliar with the local culture and language. Hopefully those experiences have given me an insight into how people arriving in this country may be feeling as they settle into a new country and learn a new language.
Week 3 – Pam Topley was interviewed about RESPITE
Tell us a bit about Respite: As we get older we all suffer from a certain amount of memory loss. For some this is more serious than for others. Respite group is for people who do suffer from memory loss, which is helped enormously by singing, and their carers. Respite meets once a month on a Monday afternoon for singing and afternoon tea the old fashioned way! We have between 15 and 30 people attending each time.
What inspired you to set up Respite? When my husband Fred began to suffer a bit of memory loss I found that he was a different person after choir practice. I chatted with a friend at church one day whose husband was also experiencing something similar. We decided that singing was the thing and got a small group together in our homes which met to sing together, but before we knew it, more and more people wanted to come along and so we started to use the Watney Room here in church. We now have people from other churches and the local community who all join in.
What’s the best thing about Respite? Two things. The first is that we have people who come who struggle to communicate in everyday life, but who come alive when the singing starts and are able to really enjoy themselves. The second thing is that it’s a wonderful place for the carers to come and relax for an hour or so with other people in similar situations.
Where have you seen God at work? So many ways! It’s been amazing to see people start singing after many years, and even playing the piano. Some people love singing old hymns from their childhood, even if they haven’t been to church for many years. Respite is a lovely way of showing people how much God loves and cares for them.
Week 2 – Natasha Burt was interviewed about SELAM
Tell us about Selam? Selam is an acronym standing for Speaking English, Learning and Meeting, as well as being an international word of greeting. It is an English Language class for women. Classes run three mornings a week, Tuesday and Thursday classes take place at Emmanuel, and Wednesday classes take place at West Croydon Baptist Church as part of the Refugee Day Centre. There are three levels of class, as well as a literacy class. We get between 25 – 30 women each time. We also run a crèche which means that women are able to attend who otherwise are confined to the house.
What’s the best thing about Selam? Selam is an amazingly rich class. The fact that we are women-only means that we are able to attract women from all walks of life – women from cultures which do not encourage association with men, to women who are vulnerable and need to feel safe. The social aspect of Selam is just as important to us as the learning aspect, and it is a joy to see women becoming friends. We love to eat together and to find out each other’s stories, and our Christmas and summer parties are a huge feature of our year. It is also wonderful to see such a variety of backgrounds coming together – from wives of Japanese businessmen to women who have been trafficked and are now living in refuges. We absolutely love to see our women grow in confidence as their English improves. One Sri Lankan girl told us she had the confidence to volunteer to help on a school trip, and one Pakistani girl has gone on to take a course to become a Teaching Assistant. These are examples of the good that we can see come out of the class.
Where have you seen God at work? We see God at work all the time. The team meet to pray together every week and we have seen some wonderful answers to prayer. We are open about our Christian faith and have had an amazing opportunity to share stories like the Easter story with women from backgrounds as diverse as Afghanistan and Bangladesh who might otherwise never have heard about Jesus. We have also run a Bible study which encourages questions and conversations on a deeper level. It’s also been wonderful to see women join our team and then grow in confidence as they walk alongside our students. We also love to pray with our students if they are going through tough times and they are amazingly open to this.
What inspired you to get involved? For me personally (Natasha), I moved back here from Ethiopia in 2011 and felt very lost for a year or so as I tried to work out how I could continue working as a teacher among internationals. God was amazing in bringing me together with Rachel Webster and together we took TEFL-training courses and set up Selam, in response to the need that we saw in our local area, as well as feeling inspired by our backgrounds of living in other cultures and understanding how hard it is to do so.
How could people get involved? We always, always need help at Selam. The crèche is one area that is constantly crying out on ECUG! We usually get 10 – 12 children and they are lively!! But we also welcome anyone who would like to help volunteer in the classes. The only requirement is that you are female and can speak English!
Week 1 – Sarah Wadsorth was interviewed about LIGHTHOUSE
Tell us about Lighthouse. Lighthouse is a group for young adults with additional needs and their parents/carers. We meet Wednesday evenings during term time in the Watney room. We have just celebrated our first birthday and have on average 30 people attending plus helpers. It was founded as a follow-on group for young adults leaving Waggy Tales and having no outlet.
What’s the best thing about Lighthouse? The atmosphere! It has a really lovely community feel and we have fun, enjoy a meal together and learn about God.
Where have you seen God at work? Everywhere! Especially in the prayers and answers to prayers, members are curious about Jesus and want to learn more, a few members have started attending some of our church services here and everyone has been given a suitable bible for their birthday this first year. One of our members volunteered to help with Mayhem so were really building a god focused community.
What inspired you to get involved? God! I’ve been involved with the Croydon branch of the Disabled Christian fellowship (DCF) since 2007 and became chair a few years ago, the established group meet every 6 weeks on a Saturday and have lunch together, I’m the youngest who attends if you want an idea of the demographic. The Charity Through the roof, which founded DCF set up a Roofbreaker day last April to help churches become more inclusive which I attended with Carol Petley and after some prayer and deliberation Lighthousewas the outcome. Funding was secured last summer, and we launched September.
How could people get involved? Are you musical or craft orientated? We are always looking for speakers and activities to do, our God slot is 5 to 10 minutes and ideally as interactive as possible. We are also looking for people to join the cooking and serving rota so if you could spare an hour or so once a term that would be wonderful You are also welcome to come along and experience Lighthouse for yourself.