Located in the diverse neighbourhood of Butetown in central Cardiff, St Mary’s Church is deeply committed to its local community and to Jo Cox’s message that ‘we have more in common than that which divides us’. The Church was an early supporter of the More in Common Cardiff Partnership and has worked hard to place itself at the heart of the community, aiming to build a stronger, and more cohesive Butetown.
The Church recognised the challenge of loneliness in the local area and so, for the Great Winter Get Together, decided the congregation wanted to do something which would create connection and bring people together across Cardiff. To do this, they reached out to three other churches, as well as other faith groups to run ‘The Day of the Soup’, which involved people making and bringing along a soup for people to taste and enjoy together.
While these days were hosted in Cardiff churches, this was a true interfaith effort with people from a range of different faiths and backgrounds contributing volunteers, soups and advertising the event. Partners in the event included local schools, mosques, refugee groups and day centres – this collaboration allowed people from different backgrounds to share their cultures with one another.
In order to encourage cultural sharing and connection, those donating soup were encouraged to share their ‘soup stories’, explaining the background to their soup and providing recipes for those who wanted to have a go at making it themselves. To encourage conversations to happen, the churches didn’t provide signs explaining what each soup was, instead you needed to ask the volunteer serving it, which naturally led to conversations and connection.
The three soup days were run in three separate churches in the city; St Mary’s in Butetown, St Saviour’s in Splott and St Paul’s in Grangetown, as well as at a smaller school event for parents. Across the four events, over 400 people attended and benefitted from both soup and connection.
There was connection and cooperation at every stage of the process, from the soup-making to the soup-eating and even the washing up! Children who were involved in the cooking increased their sense of confidence and pride by making the food, sharing it and seeing others enjoy what they had made. Adults formed new connections as well, with two soup makers creating a friendly competition about who was making the best soup and making intergenerational connections at the same time.
There were challenges of course. The largest of these was mobilising enough volunteers over the festive period when people’s attention is elsewhere; Christmas, Hanukkah and the Fast of 10th of Tevet, as well as school holidays, all presented a challenge but people were incredibly generous by working around these to make the events go so well.
Overall, ‘The Day of the Soup’ was a huge success, bringing together the city and the community to alleviate loneliness. The concept was a simple one but very effective, with attendees asking for similar events to happen again in the future. St Mary’s and its neighbouring churches are already planning more soup events in 2024, which hopefully can even extend beyond January’s Great Winter Get Together to take place in different venues and involve even more people.
From 12-15 January 2024, Great Winter Get Together events around the UK will connect communities and show that winter doesn’t have to be lonely. Find out more and register your Great Winter Get Together.