A Suffolk church has taken its drop-in café out into the community to help people reconnect in the wake of coronavirus. St Peter’s Church in Brandon normally runs a weekly café in its hall, but COVID-19 forced it to stop. Thanks to West Suffolk Council, the church is running a six-week café stall on Brandon Market Square.
The Revd Sharron Coburn, parish priest of St Peter’s Church, said: “The market development officer at West Suffolk Council contacted us and asked if we would be interested in moving the café to the market for six weeks so we jumped at the opportunity. The council has provided the infrastructure and we have brought our church coffee caravan to the market to offer free tea, coffee and biscuits in return for a small donation. The first café ran on Thursday 13 August and it’s been working really well. In a way, it has helped revitalise the market because people are doing their shopping and then sticking around for a coffee, all while abiding social distancing guidelines.”
The café has had an influx of volunteers too, including pupils who are now returning to school for the start of the new academic year. Sharron added: “We have had mums coming with babies in their buggies and elderly people all sitting and having a chat. It’s truly been intergenerational and wonderful to see. It has also been humbling because people have really missed the interaction with others throughout lockdown. It’s given everyone the opportunity to reconnect in a safe environment as well as a much-needed boost. The positivity from the community towards us has been great and the feedback has been really encouraging.”
The café will have a special visitor when Bishop Martin is due to attend to help make hot drinks tomorrow (September 10).
She added: “The success of the Thursday market café has resulted in us thinking abut moving our normal drop-in café from a Wednesday to a Thursday and back to the church hall as the weather gets colder. Throughout lockdown, St Peter’s Church ran its St Peter’s Pantry and provided food parcels and essential items for those in need."
John Griffiths, leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “Our markets are great places both of economic and social activity. West Suffolk works with many groups and organisations to help combat loneliness and reduce isolation so bringing a community café to the market is a great idea and we are more than happy to work with the Diocese on this. It is also part of our wider aim to make sure that our markets can continue to thrive and to support our communities as well as local enterprise and business.”
The market café runs on Thursdays from 9am-1pm with the last being held on Thursday 17 September.