Articles from


The Church Magazine

 Winter Shelter 2019

Leading the Stricklandgate Sunday Night Winter Shelter is one of the most rewarding experiences, and I must express my gratitude to all of you for your support and encouragement. Our building is a welcoming one, and has the accommodation that we need to provide a good service for our guests. We gobble up quite a lot of electricity staying warm overnight and some of your donations have meant we have been able to offset the cost to the church. Other donations were used for food and yet more for providing one of our guests with extra accommodation after the shelter finished so that he was able to complete a training course. Thank you for your generosity.

The Winter Shelter process starts in October with the recruitment of volunteers. The volunteers are a delightful mix of people: old and young, male and female, those with church affiliations and those with none. All are keen to help those in need over this winter period. We all undergo training, and that is when I meet the volunteers for my night. I am extremely grateful to have a core group who have worked with me before, ranging in ages from 50 to 80+, and we have two new people this year. The ice was soon broken when together we practised putting up the new camp beds….not as easy as it looked.

Manna House provides us with the beds, sleeping bags, pillows, towels and a box of basic provisions, such as the all important tea and coffee. These all stay at the church for the duration. Fortunately Alan found a hiding place to store the camp beds assembled!

On a Friday afternoon I get an email to tell me who has been booked in by Manna House. We can’t take just anyone. For the sake of everybody’s safety, guests are police checked and interviewed. Some, sadly, could not manage to stay in the shelter overnight without alcohol or drugs. At this point I email everyone on the rota for the night. On Sunday the team swings into action. I usually get to the church first when it is dark and quiet, but within minutes it is a cheerful bustle of activity. Two begin work in the kitchen, others get the beds down and set up the sleeping room, lay the table, prepare a table with newspapers, crisps, fruit, cake as a place for guests to gather round when they arrive.

Our guests arrive between 7 and 7.30pm. We offer them a brew and they gradually settle down. At 7.30pm we gather round the table to eat the delicious food. The Parish Church has teamed with us and volunteers cook a meal which is delivered to us on Sunday. We prepare fresh vegetables and cook them, and heat up whatever has arrived. We always have a choice and it is good, home cooked food. You have provided us with lovely desserts most weeks, and have given me donations for the nights when we need to cook from scratch. They really appreciate the food….and having a choice is good! If there is any leftover they take it away the next day to heat up in the microwave at Manna House! Meal times are always jolly; much chatter, much laughter. 77

Some clear up, and we chat further with the guests: do crosswords, play dominoes. When the evening volunteers leave, the overnighters settle down for a good game with whoever wants to join in. Perudo has definitely been the favourite this year and has been the cause of much hilarity. We have of course, done a lot of listening.

Most of our guests open up and we learn much about their lives and problems. Some have much anger to vent, others are genuinely seeking solutions. Causes of homelessness are many and varied. We can provide a sympathetic, listening ear.

Half past eleven is lights out and usually, all goes quiet. There are two of us on overnight. One stays awake until 3.30am and the other from then until the morning crew arrive.

How lucky we are to have a morning crew as we are bleary eyed by this stage. Bacon butties are the order of the day and can raise a smile from the most grumpy early morning stirrers. Our guests gradually get togged up ready to face the streets again. Usually they help by packing up their sleeping bags. They are grateful particularly for the new socks which some of you provided and some of the jackets and gloves. They are off by nine, with thanks and ‘cheerios’. Our church volunteers then pitch up and vacuums are going and all signs of the night put away so that the church buildings are ready for their busy week’s activities.

Anne Pater


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Larry Walters

The Rev Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was born in a Leeds vicarage, between a workhouse and a pub known as the Cemetery Tavern, on the 27th June 1883. After reading Divinity at Trinity College Dublin and a spell of teaching, he trained to become an Anglican Priest.

Just a few years after being ordained he became an army chaplain in the First World War.

In the rain sodden mud within the endless series of foul and smelly trenches, where death in all its hideous form was for ever present, came this remarkable man. Soon he had established a remarkable relationship with all the soldiers that he came in contact with. They felt that he had compassion and understanding for them. They liked his irreverent preaching style and his colourful language.   They saw him as being their kind of man: someone with whom they could completely trust. 

He would be carrying two haversacks: in one would be packets of woodbine cigarettes and in the other he would have copies of the New Testament. These he would distribute to every solder. Known to all as Woodbine Willie, this name and the man behind the name, soon became a legend

His humanity can be seen in the citation for his Military Cross, which he was awarded in 1917: 

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches, which he constantly visited".   

 Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy

-Woodbine Willie



One of the many poems by Woodbine Willie is given below 


When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,

They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;

They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,

For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.


When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by,

They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;

For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,

They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.


Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"

And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;

The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,

And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.


Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy-Woodbine Willie