There’s nothing more Christian than helping those in need, and feeding people for free is perhaps the most immediate manifestation of ‘God’s work’.
Bridport is home to so many examples of this, with the food bank and other community groups redistributing surplus food and fresh produce. Of course, this doesn’t have to be done in the name of God – and some groups aren’t connected with a church at all – but can we call ourselves Christians if we aren’t extending a helping hand to our neighbours who are struggling?
This month we found Christianity in action tucked away in a side street near Gundry Lane. The community kitchen at the Beacon Church has been running for two years, since manager Simon Batorski acted on a calling he felt while on a beach in Wales in August 2019.
“I felt strongly that the building had to be given back to the community for its use,” says Simon, who also heads up the Beacon’s outreach service. “By the November we were up and running.”
Simon Batorski is pictured here (second left) with volunteers Chris, Jenny and Adrian
Simon covered the setup costs and carried out some of the practical work through his painting and decorating business. Volunteers started to come forward, and the kitchen now has a team of regular helpers, including the cook, Chris Ivory, and a number of others. There are members of Baptist, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and some non-religious folk, too.
The kitchen receives donations of food from a number of local businesses, along with toiletries and other things that it can pass on to homeless people.
The kitchen – which passed its food safety inspection in May with flying colours – is open twice a week from 11.30am until 2pm, attracting up to 25 users at its Wednesday session and about 15 on Fridays. There’s no referral system, and users range from homeless people and those with mental health or addiction issues to single parents who are struggling and others who feel isolated. “Some just want to be part of something social; some ask about Christianity or ask for prayers,” says Simon. “We see the same people coming back, and often they’ll recommend us to a friend, too. We’re open to absolutely anyone and it has grown organically – we don’t do much publicity and there’s no targeting. Word has just spread.”
Wednesdays are busier because many users also visit the Cupboard Love food bank then, and the Beacon kitchen provides a hot meal, perhaps lasagne, chilli or cottage pie. There’s a real effort to maximise quality, and a vegetarian option is always available. On Friday there’s soup – which Simon makes from scratch – and hot dogs.
Amazingly, the kitchen managed to stay open during Covid by adapting to the new rules. “We had a takeaway service in the early days, when the weather was good, and we set up an outdoor eating area. We also delivered food to Borough Gardens, where people in need were gathering. It proved a lifeline to people with diagnosed mental health conditions when other services were closing.”
Simon has ambitions for the community kitchen and would like to add a shower cubicle and laundry facilities. “If God is in this, it will stay,” he says. “This is real church.”
The Beacon Church is in Priory Lane, Bridport (behind Rockburn climbing centre). The kitchen is on Facebook as ‘Bridport Community Soup Kitchen’.