The Sanctuary, a unit provided by the Shopping City management, located in the old Thomas Cook premises, near to the Post Office, opened during the summer of 2020, to primarily provide a pastoral service, available to anybody who just wishes to talk, reflect or feel the need to ‘off load’ during these difficult times.
With the current lockdown now in place, Deacon Tim and his volunteers from the Sanctuary have had to re-think their approach to chaplaincy work for the time being. Tim said “We care about the people of Runcorn, that is the main reason we do this. We want to offer a listening ear, practical support where possible, and advice to those who need it. “We are also happy to answer questions of faith or pray with individuals if they wish for us to do so, or just sit together and chat. We want to be available to anybody, even if they are not part of a church community. “During the lockdown we are limited in the service we can offer, and our particular concern is for the retail staff and we are doing what we can to support them. We have set up a ‘virtual sanctuary’ online, via Zoom, with access limited to the retail staff of Shopping City. There are three one-hour sessions, each at a different time and day through the week.”
He added, “We are also letting people know about telephone numbers for those who wish to text prayer requests, or alternatively they can post it through the door of the Sanctuary. “Normally we would be popping into the various shops within the centre and chatting with the retail staff and checking on their wellbeing. With lockdown and the high R rate locally, we have largely curtailed this, but have managed to make contact with some of the staff. “Overall, our presence has been well received. Even a quick hello and a wave can make somebody realise they matter. As representatives of the church and Jesus, just by being there we hope to send the message that God loves them.” The Sanctuary has already proved popular before it had to close temporarily for the lockdown, as it has been visited by numerous people who wished to discuss various topics such as; bereavements, concerns of how loved-ones are coping during the pandemic, homelessness, for which the Chaplaincy arranged support, and general questions and chats about Jesus, God and religion.
After lockdown has ended Tim and his growing team of volunteers from various churches within the community, who have all taken and passed the Chaplaincy Everywhere course, intend to recommence normal services and are also hoping not only will The Sanctuary grow, but chaplaincy services will be extended further afield than just the Shopping City.
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