On 29 July 2020, Caritas East Anglia (CSAN member) held its first webinar to encourage and promote social action in the diocese. In collaboration with CAFOD in East Anglia, and chaired by Ged Edwards of CSAN, the webinar brought together 45 people from the diocese and further afield to hear how people have responded to the pandemic, and to encourage them to follow Pope Francis’s request to “prepare the future”. Bishop Alan Hopes sent a pre-recorded welcome message to participants.
Local leaders described how parishioners had set up new and adapted existing community food projects in Newmarket and Wymondham. The projects had been supported by local people, agencies and people from other denominations and faiths. A ‘pay as you can afford’ donations box was reported to have worked well in the community café, reflecting concern for all people’s dignity. With a community fridge project, all families at local schools, regardless of circumstances, were encouraged to help themselves to food close to disposal dates, from local supermarkets. In King’s Lynn, collaboration between local Christians and support from a worker had stimulated new support including debt advice, a food bank and a homelessness night shelter, which it was hoped would move to larger premises in the winter of 2020. Stella Maris’ Port Chaplain from Felixstowe spoke of the difficulties facing seafarers who have been prevented because of the pandemic from leaving their vessels for long periods, and difficulties getting medicines and vital supplies to them.
Jacinta Goode, diocesan Caritas Development Worker, said, ‘We are so grateful to all who took part and made this a special evening. I hope others will build on this experience in their own dioceses and parishes.’
Ged Edwards, CSAN’s Network Development Officer, said, ‘This event showed how we can encourage and inspire those working hard to support local people. It formed links between them and helped encourage others to join them as they prepare the future and follow the Lord in building His Kingdom in this time of pandemic.’
A recording of the webinar has been put on the diocesan website.