Archive by Author | stillaflame

In Celebration of Alcohol Awareness week

ImageThis week is Alcohol Awareness week. Last week I was meeting with one of our Group leaders who has been ‘dry’ over 15 years and now co-leads an alcohol recovery & support group called Stay Dry Be Free once a week, to support people on their journey to freedom from alcohol addiction. We talked about the additional support we could make available to both visitors and volunteers at this time of year when in every supermarket and newspaper there are adverts for cheap alcohol for the Festive season.

The next day I popped in to take some publicity shots in  our Art group which is co-lead by a volunteer who’s been ‘dry’ for over 8 years. He introduced me to a new visitor who is just a week into detox & had come to keep herself busy and had heard about the group from a friend. It was particularly important to her that one of the leaders would have walked the path she had started and would understand the struggles she was going through as she attempted to face life without the alcoholic haze.

ImageThis morning one of our cafe helpers is volunteering as part of her recovery programme. Tomorrow another of our Cafe volunteers  will have been ‘dry’ nearly 6 years.

Nicci came into our drop in one evening, a bit the worse for wear and desperate to find some hope and a way forward for her life. She went back to one of our community homes which was for single women only. There she found friends and the support and encouragement to help her stop drinking. 3 years later, she returned briefly as a member of staff and last year joined our volunteer team. She helps out on our Info Desk, in Step up and more recently the cafe. Volunteering is a way of giving something back.

Image” I’m very thankful God delivered me from alcoholism”  declares Nicci’s Face Book status at the start of Alcohol Awareness week.

If you or someone you know is having problems with alcohol and you are concerned you can pop in to our “Stay Dry be free group on Thursdays 12-1pm or pop in to our Info Desk and ask to speak to someone confidentially.

Both Alcoholics Anonymous & Al Anon offer support for those directly affected by alcohol abuse. You can look up your local group on the web or in Yellow pages.


Eating well when the chips are down

This post originally featured at A Day In The Life of Northampton Jesus Centre, a blog run by Northampton Jesus Centre’s volunteer coordinator.

Worried over billsIt’s not difficult to notice that there’s a real squeeze on people’s finances at the moment.

Every time I fill up the car with petrol it seems to cost a little bit more. The media carries stories hi-lighting the impact of Fuel Poverty, changes to housing benefit & council tax benefit, meaning some people are having to move to down size their accommodation or face additional rent & council tax payments. Universal credit and PIP will mean changes in who can receive certain benefits and the amount some people receive; the increasing use of Food Banks highlights the level to which some people are already struggling.

Struggling under debtOne young woman came in the other day. in her own words “she wouldn’t normally ask for help”, but she appeared to have tried everywhere else. She illustrated to me the way that the current economic and employment climate is impacting on a wider range of people than usually. Normally, in work, she was between jobs and waiting for her JSA claim to start and due to the abnormally severe weather was about to run out of money for the electric meter. Her energy supplier was sympathetic but couldn’t help. Her daughter was 6 years old, insulin dependent, needed her medication stored in a fridge, was there anything we could do to help?

Or the middle-aged woman who is having to move home, from the flat she loves, or face paying the extra £56 from her JSA to cover her 2nd bedroom that will no longer be covered by Housing benefit.

Man in a lounge looking out the windowOr the older man, who told one of our helpers that he’d got to decide whether to buy food for the next week or put money in the electric meter.

Here at the Jesus Centre we are trying to respond and prepare for the impact of the benefit changes by ensuring our groups and services are able to respond to these needs.

Burning moneyWe already run Money Worries- a weekly service that gives people debt advice, negotiates debt re-payments and gives advice on budgeting.

We are in the middle of our 5 week Money Course which includes an additional week on how to save money on your fuel bills.

Later in the year we intend to launch a new service Keep Warm- where, (subject to funding) we hope to be able to offer people small grants to help with energy-saving measures and advice on choosing the best tariff for their energy usage to keep their bills down.

We are becoming a Food Bank distribution point and continue to offer free drinks, a shower and laundry facilities to those in need in our Step Up scheme.

In addition we offer a number of groups that can provide support and increase people’s Wellbeing by supporting in a relaxed, informal environment and opportunities to make friends.

Happy fruit bowl faceBasic Cooking – which will include how to cook on a budget starts in mid April. Eat Well- lose weight- will show you how eating right & staying healthy need not cost the earth.

For more information on these and other of our groups check out or call in and register at our Info Desk.

On Valuing One Another

Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes this week for the NJC blog

The other day whilst doing a bit of online research into ‘how to motivate volunteers’ I came across a phrase that leapt out at me:

Nothing communicates value more than personal contact

Most people under 20 years old probably spend more time communicating regularly with people they don’t see face to face than the people they live with. It is most likely that when I’m chatting to my friends’ teenage daughter online giving her my undivided attention, she is simultaneously engaged with conversations with 6 other people and attempting to do her homework! Social networking has opened up the possibility of having thousands of ‘friends’ but somehow no one has managed to create the intimacy and ‘feel good’ factor that a face to face meeting with a friend who has taken time out for coffee and a chat, creates.

Everyone needs to know that they matter to someone.

So many people who come to us, especially to the drop in, have lost a sense of their personal worth. Here at the Jesus Centre we don’t just want to post the strap line “Jesus Centres are a place where everyone is valued” on our website or in our vision statement but to also communicate it through the way we value everyone who comes through the door including our staff and volunteers. We place great emphasis on connecting with each of our visitors face to face, whether in the Café, drop in, English conversation course, or art group. That is because so many visitors who come to us are experiencing deep loneliness from a lack of personal contact and real friends.

If someone comes in to the Centre who has a problem with finding accommodation we will make sure someone spends time with them one-to-one, listening to their situation and signposting them on if necessary. We try as much as possible to ensure we have enough volunteers on duty to release someone to spend time listening one-to-one to a visitor. Ask any GP and they will probably tell you that they have several incurable patients who don’t come because they are physically ill but because they have no one else to talk to about their worries. Here at the Jesus Centre we offer a free Listening service where people can find a confidential, listening ear.

Back to the article I was reading; people’s motivation improves if they feel that they and what they are doing matters. This is why we give visitors an opportunity to become helpers, providing an essential support role behind the scenes. It improves someone’s self worth tremendously if they are able to become a contributor and not just a recipient of help.

Some years ago I asked an older guy who had been a long-term rough sleeper why he came and had lunch with us on a Sunday rather than with the local homeless provision; I’ll always remember what he said:

Because everywhere else they serve a meal to us, here you sit down and eat the meal with us.

Maybe if we all used the time we spent ‘friending’ people over the internet on spending time, real face-to-face time, with someone we know who needs a listening ear, we’d all feel much more valued and connected to each other.

Listening Ears Lighten Loads

Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes.

One of the services we run is ‘Listening Ear’. This service is open to anyone who walks in regardless of faith or non-faith who needs someone to talk to.

Ear with earringIt’s amazing that in this social networking, media obsessed society, with many ways to communicate with the outside world that people still feel there is no one who will really listen to them or who they can talk to about the things that are really worrying them.

Your Space, our Women’s only drop in session on a Thursday afternoon also operates as a listening service. The women who’ve come to talk recently shared concerns about their lack of meaningful relationships, abusive pasts, struggles with depression, anxiety, mental illness and their health. Some of them struggle with faith and their relationship with God, seeing Him as an angry authority figure, who they can never please, rather than as a loving heavenly Father who loves and accepts them and wants a relationship with them. This may well be a reflection of their relationships with their fathers, step fathers or partners.

It is always an immense privilege and often very humbling when someone shares their story with you. Often where they start isn’t where they finish and you have to listen right to the end to uncover the real issues they want to talk about.

Depressed reflected stare out of a windowSam (not her real name) came in very agitated and concerned about her mental health, feeling very depressed and anxious and on the surface concerned about a doctors’ appointment. But by the end of our conversation she opened up about her loneliness, which had led her into pornography and masturbation and the feelings of guilt this left her with that kept her from coming to God to ask Him to help her. We were able to share together and pray for God to deal with her emotional needs that were at the root of her habit.

Do you have to have been through the same experience as the person? No, you just have to be willing to give up some time to listen.

Do you have to have an answer to their situation? No, most people just need to talk. Sometimes they find the answer within themselves; others are keen to receive prayer.

Does God come and wave a magic wand and sort all their problems out? If He did we’d have people queuing around the building to get prayed for! Prayer does sometimes work like that. But essentially what we ask the person to do is to invite God into the situation and ask Him to bring wisdom, peace, healing, or whatever the person feels they need. Then we hand the situation over to God for Him to work.

And He does.

Our Listening Ear service is available Mon- Fri 10-4pm
Your Space women’s only drop in is available every Thursday afternoon 1.30-3pm in the Step Up lounge

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