Guest blog by one of our trustees, who was round at the beginning of our Foodbank in 2013 Rev Patrick Evans, writes especially for us:

The 2017 movie, Greatest Showman has a song that I can’t get out of my head as we look over the ten years together as Southport Foodbank. ‘This is Me’ tells of how everyone is special, unique and has gifts to offer.

All the performers that Barnum had gathered together, had been told or told themselves, that they did not fit in, that they were outsiders looking in, never to be part of the mainstream.

I don’t know what it is like to be a Foodbank client, I can only imagine it.

But it seems to me that somewhere along the line people have also been made to feel un-seen and outsiders. This sense of shame is rooted deeply in a society which judges harshly and is quick to exclude people at the edges.

It perhaps helps me to hone my periphery vision and look out for those on the edges.

As a Christian myself,  I seek to follow the way of Jesus and when asked what the Kingdom of Heaven was like, he told us about his periphery vision.  The ‘stranger’ invited in, the hungry person fed , the thirsty person given refreshment – but it was all so perplexing to even his close friends, promoting indignant questioning all round. It completely overwhelmed the religious and righteous people of his time!

Jesus also told the story of the two sons and a very forgiving father to expand our concept of them and us, deserving and undeserving. It is so easy to be like the disgruntled son, quibbling and stingy. He was resentful that as the rule follower, perceive himself overlooked, while the rule breaker gets it all.

People of all faiths and none have been part of the Southport Foodbank journey over 10 years, and have provided a united front to Foodbank clients, rejecting the shame and judgements that society often makes about them.  Rather, we all realise that at anyone of us at any time may become a client, save for the good fortune of circumstances.

The Foodbank experience in all its 10 years has never been just about food!  The food is important coupled with hospitality, hopefully outrageous hospitality.  The Latin root of the word hospitality is the same root as the words hospital, hostel and hotel.  There is the expectation when visiting any of these “ho” words of renewal, refreshment, restoration, refuelling, healing and wholeness. As a Foodbank we seek to offer grace, via a smile, a cup of tea, a non judgemental welcome, a listening ear. We help in a small way with outrageously non-judgemental ‘hospitals’ for people to come out of their protective shell that they’ve built around themselves given how others may judge and treat them.

As Foodbank volunteers you do not judge, rather from the generous donations of the citizens of our town we offer gifts so graciously given to those who have been knocked off kilter.

You offer restoration, a sort of “Repair Shop” if you like.  It allows people to stand up tall to be the best that they can be and say, shout and sing “This is me!”

As volunteers you offer healing through your welcome to those in need. As we minister to Foodbank clients, in return they minister to us.  Music rapper Stormzy sings in his music video rooted in his childhood community of being “Blinded by your grace”.

May we continue to offer outrageous grace, for as long as grace is needed.

Adapted from a talk given at Southport Foodbank 10th Anniversary event, 7th May 2023 at Lakeside Church