As he prepares to leave Wanstead Parish, Revd Dr Jack Dunn reflects on his four years as Rector, and talks about a Christmas appeal to help keep rough sleepers safe this winter
A year like no other, 2020 has had its highs and lows. We had wonderful news from the Heritage Lottery Fund, inaugurated our winter night shelter and raised funds to sponsor a refugee family. We also had to shut our church doors, learn to embrace Zoom and, sadly, take more funerals and comfort more bereaved families than we ever thought possible.
Last winter, our night shelter opened inside Christ Church halls, providing our guests with a hot meal, shelter, breakfast, a listening ear and a smile. We were overwhelmed by the support of the local community: financially, volunteering and donating clothing and food. This project above all others summed up the wonderful Wanstead community, helping others less fortunate than themselves.
This winter, things will be very different. Covid-19 restrictions mean church halls across the country can no longer be used for shelters, yet the need for emergency accommodation is greater than ever, with more people set to lose jobs and homes.
Partnering with Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter, we plan to provide emergency accommodation in a local hotel, funding 15 individual rooms per night to run from November through to the end of March 2021. We’re delighted to have again been chosen to feature in the Aviva Community Fund, and our Christmas appeal crowdfund is now live. We’re praying the local community and Aviva employees will want to support us once more.
Charities worldwide have been hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis and yet the local community in Wanstead has been so supportive. Just as we entered lockdown in March, our fundraiser to sponsor a Syrian refugee family went live. This was not great timing, yet, once again, we were amazed by the generosity of the local community and we soon hit our target. Our application has now been approved by the Home Office. We hope to welcome a family to Wanstead in 2021 once resettlement flights resume from Jordan.
Following last year’s restoration of St Mary’s – thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund – we received the huge boost of a further £72,500 grant. This will help us to work with consultants and architects to secure and plan the longer-term future for both St Mary’s and Christ Church, and explore how both churches can be developed to serve our communities better. We would love to hear from members of the wider community about how our church buildings can better serve everyone – young and old, people of all faiths and none. After all, the church is there to serve everyone, not just churchgoers!
If this year has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that community is everything. I will really miss the Wanstead community. Thank you for your generosity and great kindness.