In March many of the CNI Network (Christian Nightlife Initiatives) local projects stopped. Teams such as Street Angels and Club Angels were not needed in local communities as pubs and clubs, like the rest of the nation and world, went into lockdown.
However many of our teams and volunteers rose to the challenge of the reality we all found ourselves in.
Helplines offering prayer, a listening ear and shopping services for those who were unable to go out were established.
Community Angel teams became the heartbeat of local communities supporting those self-isolating as well as the elderly or vulnerable with regular phone calls, medication and shopping deliveries.
The partnership with the local church and local authorities, in place as part of our regular work in communities, were utilised with some of our projects beginning to offer daily meals on wheels or volunteers becoming involved in the work of other organisations such as Food Banks or the local authority helpline service.
In Blackpool, as in several other towns and cities, part of the Street Angels work is with the homeless community. As lockdown hit in March this work was needed more than ever. Dave Preston, one of the project coordinators, tells the story:
"When COViD occurred we had only been operating our new established Emergency Bed Unit (in partnership with Blackpool Council) for three months. We were asked to increase its operation to a 24 hour provision. This meant bringing on more volunteers at a time when people were not wanting to leave their homes and were isolating. It required increased funding and in general was a much bigger challenge, with our residents having to stay indoors for most of the day. To make matters worse we lost a substantial amount of funding from a number of sources due to the economic impact of coronavirus.
"We applied for more funding however and have been successful with a number of bids and individual donors coming on board. We looked at working more efficiently with what we’ve got and shuffled our paid staff around to create a new volunteer coordinator position. The volunteers have appeared and our volunteer rota is looking healthy again. We have managed to keep our Heads above water thus far. We continue to say our prayers!
On July 4th when pubs were opened up again many of our street teams were able to go back out on patrol though offering a less hands on service than previously. With the support and guidance of local Police, local authorities and CNI Network our volunteer teams have policies and procedures in place that ensure they are kept safe in a higher risk environment.
The work of Street Angels has continued, though many now running at early times to accommodate the 10pm closing times. Some teams have changed to offer support, prayer and chaplaincy to those who work within the night-time and hospitality industry as future employment and even venues remaining open is a constant threat and worry. One team, at the request of the police, have received training to be able to offer patrols in suicide hotspots.
CNI Network is confident that the local church is the hope of our nation. Ephesians 1:23 says, "The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence." In these times of uncertainty and change we believe that the church has an amazing opportunity to be communities of hope, communities of grace, communities of life and communities of love as we demonstrate 'God's Kingdom come, God's will be done on earth as in heaven' a reality for people and wider communities.
To find out more about the work of CNI Network and our local projects visit cninetwork.org or facebook.com/cninetwork