We post a volunteer on Little Horton Lane, a busy local thoroughfare, to invite passers-by for a cup of tea or coffee. Many stop when invited, come into the coffee lounge in the church, share their experiences and ask questions. Because there are volunteers from the church (or volunteers in training), conversations flow on all matters – sometimes on faith, sometimes on the building and what it stands for, sometimes on personal needs. Most people who access All Saints in this way have a variety of needs – language difficulty in some cases, lack of job-skills, need for services for adults and children locally or just loneliness needing a friendly voice behind a cup of tea. We have been able to direct people to IT and Jobsearch classes, Baby Massage, Toddler groups – all provided by Landmark during the week, as well as other local community provision (We are closely connected to BetterStart Bradford and All Saints School). We are also visited by people who never normally get the chance to talk to a white British person as a friend.
We are looking to extend this volunteer project to three days a week, and employ our lead volunteer to head up this work, give volunteers in training proper induction, recruit new volunteers and increase the number of people accessing the service.
The project is called Three Cups of Tea after the story of Greg Mortensen, the Himalayan climber. We planned it together with Pastor Benjamin Ayes, who runs an event for asylum seekers in our area every Saturday afternoon, where he regularly enrols 70-80 people on different English learning levels. Benjamin is a Ghanaian Pentecostal pastor, but the majority of his clients are Muslims, and his work has been recently featured on BBC Radio 4.
We hope those who currently come for Three Cups of Tea will end up assisting and delivering the project; the church base of the project does not hinder other faiths from entering, it seems to be a draw, and we hope to utilise this goodwill to strengthen leadership.
Three Cups of Tea aims to foster a growth in mutual understanding. At Three Cups of Tea people of all different backgrounds talk to one another. This shared conversation produces confidence that each person who enters the Church has personal worth, and that noone of another nationality or religion is strange, however different the practice of their faith may be. Myths about British people being immoral are be dispelled and bridges of friendship have already been built.
Some come week after week, some drop in once only. Some come for food, which we supply where needed (food given by church members); some come for prayer; some come out of curiosity, some out of interest in the building; some come desperate with no English; some come out of prison, with nowhere else to go. Developing this project onto a professional level is expected to increase numbers attending, and to increase the quality of the welcome we provide.