Bristol's Community Carnival Witness
12th July 2019
Mission to the Cities with a slightly different approach was demonstrated on Sabbath 6 July, with the Bristol Central Adventist church Community Ministries department embracing the opportunity to witness and demonstrate God's love in a practical way. The annual St Paul's Carnival was back, where it was predicted that an estimated 100,000 would attend from all over the globe. Indeed thousands flocked the small area of St Paul's to experience the atmosphere and see the festival's floats and parades. Several makeshift kitchens and open-plan food stalls were erected everywhere along the roadsides to sell food, water and other commodities hoping to satisfy the desires of the huge crowds. According to the organisers, it was a time to showcase the Windrush generation and the contribution they have made to this country at a critical time in its history.
Bristol Central church sits at the heart of St Paul's, where the church has been established for the past 60 years. As Community Ministries leader, Mary Philip's aim was to create a platform for dialogue to establish a working partnership with Bristol City Council and other organisations in order to support initiatives that will deliver essential services relevant to the St Paul's community. Over the past 7 years, Mary has been working in collaboration with organisations such as Rethink Mental Health, Community Access Support Group (CASS), Montpelier Health Centre, Eastville Health Centre, Race for Life, The Inner-City Community Support Group, and Health Watch to name a few.
Councillor Dr Carole Johnson, councillor for the Ashley Ward, was approached by Mary Philip in 2016 to see whether the church could create a working relationship with herself to support the work that she does in the Ashley Ward.
Several meetings were held resulting in the church agreeing to operate a health hub to facilitate the following:
1) A sick bay to offer first aid,
2) To keep people hydrated by offering water and soft fruits and
3) A place to rest weary legs.
In the past, Health Ministries leader Sidu Mushonga and her team had health stalls at Portland Square but no one had decided to have it in the church car park. Earlier this year, the Avon and Somerset Police Force also contacted the church and requested to use the space as a base for the police officers, who would be working on that day. The police were looking for a place to have refreshments, rest and toilet facilities. Several emails and telephone calls were exchanged with PC Natalie Ranahan from Avon and Somerset Police and other officers who work at the Police Headquarters to establish how the church could support the request.
The Community Ministries Department had a team of 9 people who were on hand to provide a health hub. The station comprised of a sick bay to offer first aid, water, snacks, fruits, and freshly made juice. The team were on site, some of them from 08:00 am until 1:00 am the following morning offering a free service to the public, as well as giving free items. They gave away 160 bottles of water, dozens of fruit bowls and non-meat tasters not to mention the freshly made fruit and vegetable juices made by Dr Miriam Kakaire. The team also stood on toilet duties for hours to accommodate the flow of people, who couldn't wait in the long queues for the public toilets. They were all so very grateful and insisted on giving donations to the church even though they were told that they didn't need to pay for anything. In all, £138.00 was donated to the church.
The service provided to the police throughout the day was exceptional. They expressed their gratitude several times for the kindness shown to them and they were more than happy to pose for several photos with the team. Some of them even took their hats off and placed it on our heads during the photos, and even requested for the photos to be uploaded on the Avon and Somerset website. They were also open for us to use Twitter to express our thoughts on the day. There was so much laughter and goodwill spirit among them and ourselves. It was a fun-filled environment.
It was a time to witness and show a practical example of Christianity. Love truly was in action. We spoke to hundreds of people and some wanted to know more about our faith. Several people were amazed at our generosity, kindness and goodwill. They were asking why are we doing all this service for free. Others including some of the police officers were asking about our worship times and days. One gentleman came and told us that he was a Roman Catholic but wanted to understand our fundamental beliefs; Sister Claudette Brown explained to him and took him on a tour inside and around the church. June Ford, assistant in the department spoke to students and introduced them to our Youth initiatives including the Adopt A Student and the Student Hub. Leandra Philip-Chipulu also had an extensive conversation with a particular student, who appeared very keen on the services that we offer.
Councillor Dr Carole Johnson's arrival was a highlight. She was there to witness first-hand the service that the church was being provided to her ward at such a time. She posed for photos with the police and was excited to talk about how peaceful the day went. She has posted a comment on her Facebook page, thanking the churches in the community, but particularly mentioned, "The Seventh-day Adventist church on Ashley Road, again provided a health station, first aid and FREE...yes you heard me correctly FREE water, snacks, fruits, and freshly made smoothies whilst you waited. True grace and love of community. Special thanks to Mary Philip who year in year out 365 days a year pours love out into the Ashley community.''
All in all, it was an excellent opportunity to witness not only of the church's holistic approach to health, but to demonstrate the caring side of the church and its mission to witness to and serve the community.
[Mary Philip, Bristol Central Community Ministries Leader]