‘A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure.’ Henry Kissinger’s words resonate as the UK reflects on the positive ways so many individuals and organisations responded to COVID-19.
Soul Church in Norwich whose mission statement is Love In Action, and who regularly welcomed 1,500 worshippers through its doors on a typical Sunday has been one such organisation tested under pressure. Before the pandemic hit, Soul Church was running a food programme using donations from local supermarkets to deliver around 1,000 meals a week in and around Norwich. Unsurprisingly the church saw a huge increase in demand at the start of lockdown. Yet even before it had fully worked out how it was going to respond, it pledged to meet the growing need.
Knowing they couldn’t go it alone, Soul Church partnered with individuals and organisations both within and without the local community, including Stewardship. Many donated food, equipment and time, but there were equally pressing financial needs. Providing 30,000 meals a week would cost 70p per meal per person, and Soul Church quickly understood the need to raise money to ensure they could meet demand rather than rely on ad hoc food donations. They needed to set up online fundraising quickly and because they’d previously has a positive experience setting up give.net accounts for individuals within the church, they turned to Stewardship again, asking for help in setting up the Soul Foundation online fundraising page.
Katy Cooper, Head of Finance at Soul Church and Soul Foundation, says: “We really needed the money flowing in quickly and Stewardship enabled that – they went out of their way to do everything as quickly as possible – bending over backwards to do all they could to help.”
Stewardship were also able to help with Soul Foundation’s battle with HMRC to be recognised as a charity. After three months they had got nowhere, but a call from Stewardship to HMRC’s Head of Charity Policy in London led to the application being authorised within twenty-four hours.
Both of these financial interventions have clearly been beneficial to Soul Church, helping to support the continued development of their impressive operation. Now housed in a warehouse made available free of charge, Soul Church shifts three tonnes of food in and out each day, and by the end of June they were delivering 44,000 meals a week to around 1,650 families, topping up the food boxes with fresh milk, yogurt, eggs and meat.
Although there have been many fraught moments, Richard Nash (Soul Foundation’s Chair of
Trustees) reflects that there have also been moments of unexpected joy and wonder – from having the unusual experience of a passer-by thanking him for delivering a food parcel to a homeless man, to amazement in recognising the detail in God’s provision. “In one of our early food deliveries there was a large quantity of baby food – those ready-to-eat pouches designed to allow babies to suck the food straight from the pouch – and an abundance of Nutella. One of the schools Soul Foundation are partnered with is a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school – and it turned out that both the pouches of baby food and the Nutella were the perfect food for many of these severely-disabled children. The baby food was perfect for older children unable to chew; while, for some of the children with severe disabilities, taste is a key way they communicate – and that Nutella really hit the spot, giving those children moments of pure joy. We really wondered why we received all this stuff – but God had a plan!”
Kevin Russell, Stewardship’s Technical & Advocacy Director, adds: “The people at Soul Church are truly inspirational – demonstrating God’s love in action, being recognised in the community for that – and seeing many souls saved as a result. Stewardship is about releasing generosity and making Jesus known, so there’s a natural connection with the aims of Soul Church and Soul Foundation. It’s been a real pleasure to partner with them and use our financial expertise to help them realise their vision. Different teams within Stewardship have been involved in releasing much needed funds, and there’s more planned!”
And the future? Soul Church intends to continue making diamonds for as long as the need is there and the money available. As Richard says, “The need isn’t going away anytime soon. There’s the clear expectation that the UK will move into recession, and we’ll continue to fundraise via our Soul Foundation page and grant applications.”
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