AT THE END OF A WEEK OF UPHEAVAL IN RESPONSE TO THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS, LONDON CITY MISSION MINISTRIES ARE FINDING PRACTICAL WAYS TO SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST
[Mon 23rd update: The Webber Street team are now providing breakfasts at the door in a 15-minute window, 9.15am to 9.30am.]
Webber Street Day Centre has quickly put in place a new way of working that aims to offer the best service to its guests, and to do all that is possible to curb the spread of infection.
Today the team is low in number due to quarantine, self-isolation or sick. Three are greeting the guests and three are working in the kitchen.
A sign outside says that the centre is running a reduced service. The building is closed to guests and instead a breakfast of a ham and cheese roll, yoghurt, fruit and a carton of fruit juice is handed out from the side door. There’s also bottled water and clear plastic bag with toiletries to pick up.
By 9.15 a group of around 35 men has gathered. Five or six arrive a little later.
Staff serve everybody as quickly as possible and encourage them to move on. Yesterday they fed and dispersed everyone in 20 minutes. It’s about keeping contact time to an absolute minimum, says Acting Manager Nick Labiche as he arranges the tables outside and organises the queue to ensure everybody keeps their distance.
In the normal running of the centre, serving the teas and coffees is first opportunity to check in with guests, and give a proper welcome to the centre.
Today the drinks are poured before the queue starts moving, guests are expected to pick up either a tea or a coffee and move on straight away.
Mission Associate Daniel Taylor is handing out food, greeting each person by name, passing the bags with a brief friendly word and keeping the queue moving.
The whole of London is feeling tense, and this group feels it too. A minor skirmish threatens to break out between two of the guys near the drinks, and staff move very quickly to quash it.
Moving people takes a bit of persistence. For the guests, Webber Street is an essential point of connection for conversation and friendship, and it’s natural to want to chat and linger for a while.
Fifteen minutes later everyone has their food and dispersed. ‘It wasn’t pretty was it?’ Nick observes of the hasty delivery as he carries tables back inside.
The team is doing everything it can to balance day-to-day care of the guests with limitations of government guidance and of taking responsibility for curbing the infection.
What’s being demonstrated here, as every day at the day centre, is that the staff at Webber Street are in for the long haul, that their message of good news in Jesus Christ is part of an authentic commitment to the guests which endures through good times and bad.