If there was a way to sum up last year, it would be ‘going back… but differently’ – as we re-gathered in the Main Hall at The Romsey School after two years apart, to encounter God again as one big Church family. But normal has changed and what was, no longer exists. We have all been affected living through a world-wide phenomenon.
As we grappled to discover some kind of routine, it was encouraging to hear from our friends Nick and Ali Herbert speaking from Isaiah 40, 'A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord,' reminding us that we don’t have to wait until we are out of the wilderness before we start preparing a way, but it is in the middle of storm that we find God close. Which is what we did in 2022.
We started creating more space for God and encountering him, through our mid-week More Jesus sessions, exploring what it means to ‘Walk the Way of Jesus’ for almost the whole year as our Sunday teaching programme. We gathered on the land, we gathered for prayer, we gathered families for Good Friday, CAP Families for lunch at Easter, we gathered as the Freedom Centre was formally opened by the Town Mayor and we gathered once again for the Church Weekend Away at Lockerley – a special time as we fed the many Ukrainian families and their hosts that joined us.
Along with all the existing activities, we started the Freedom Tots each Friday; Warm Welcome Space was created as a response to the cost-of-living crisis and 150 families were provided with hampers at Christmas.
We may have had to adapt. To reset and start again, but it is good to know that in the middle of the wilderness and the uncertainty that our God never changes, he is our rock in whom each one of us can put our trust.
I love you, Lord. You are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my protection, my Saviour. My God is my rock. I can run to him for safety. He is my shield and my saving strength, my defender. I will call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I will be saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3 NCV
At the beginning of 2022 we were meeting weekly in our 3 Locations whilst live-streaming from the studio space at the Freedom Centre. We met a couple of times at the URC for dedications and baptisms, before moving back to The Romsey School for our Sunday morning services in March.
We spent the year working our way through Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 which we found healthily challenging but really uplifting. Our Summer Sundays were set on the shore, with one on our piece of land, focusing on moments Jesus had with others on the beach. We’ve loved welcoming new people joining us from elsewhere at our Newcomers Lunches, giving them a flavour of what we’re all about.
It was incredibly refreshing to be back in the same room, in-person, with live worship music and a face-to-face speaker. To see the children dancing and jumping for those who hadn’t seen that for a while was a particular highlight. With the help from our very talented tech team, however, we decided it best to stay live-streaming too, so they set up the system so we could do so from the school.
Prayer and worship is at the center of all we do. We love that our relationship and connection with 24/7 Prayer is forever growing and proving to be really helpful in providing resources, ideas and training. We hosted a couple of Weeks of Prayer at the Freedom Centre throughout the year which were a real benefit to those visiting the center, as well as our church partners. It was great to be a part of the Good Friday service with Churches Together in the town. In response to our desire to gather for prayer and worship, we began exploring with our ‘Mid-week gatherings’ where we created space to wait, worship and pray. We love that they have now evolved into monthly ‘All In’s.
In June, some of Freedom Church made their way to Wildfires. It was brilliant to be connected in with those at Kerith Community Church and Revelation Church who we shared a communal space with. We had a wonderful time worshipping, learning and gathering with thousands of other Christians for the same reason.
It was fun to gather in the Autumn for sparklers and hot dogs, and of course, we saw the return of the Church Weekend in September. The weekend was full of fun, eating together, and community. We loved having some Freedom Matters clients join us, and inviting our connected Ukrainians and hosts to eat with us too.
Thank you to those of you who have kick started our BBQ Men’s Breakfast’s and Ladies Evenings – we look forward to have them on alternate months throughout this year.
a year that has seen both growth and change.
Change as Jo Topley moved on from her role as Foodbank and Centre Manager and Jo Ibbott stepped down from being the CAP Debt Centre Manager.
Growth as the Centre becomes known as a Hub for the local community. A ‘One-stop shop for help and support’ as the Mayor described it when we officially opened the Freedom Centre in May. In December, Beth Tanton was appointed Foodbank and Operations Manager, and Debs Niblett was appointed our new CAP Debt Centre Manager who will officially start in February 2023.
Throughout last year, the CAP Debt Centre saw 14 new clients. We ran one CAP Life Skills Course with 6 participants. The Job Club didn’t run as a group, but Ben Tanton saw people throughout the year on a 1:1 basis. TLG now has 6 coaches and supported 5 children at Cupernham School. We have had 3 clients make their way through the Community Coaching programme. The CAP Money course ran once and we opened the Warm Welcome Hub in October. Partnerships are working well in the Centre with Manders, our CAB Caseworker, available for Foodbank Clients, and the DWP Job Centre Work Coach based at the Centre one day a week. At Christmas, Romsey Baptist hosted a Christmas Dinner for our CAP clients and their families. The Freedom Centre is open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10.30am – 12.30pm and is busy most days.
None of this would be possible without the brilliant, ongoing support of our volunteers from the local community, Freedom Church and Romsey Baptist Church – thank you.
At the Foodbank, 2022 was the busiest year we have ever seen. Giving out over 21,000 kg of food to local families compared to 14,000kg in 2021, our teams across Romsey and North Baddesley have worked incredibly hard. Not only did out outgoings increase, we also had the biggest collection for Harvest that we’ve ever had, seeing 4,000kg of food come in from local schools, churches and community groups. Our Citizens Advice Caseworker supported 90 foodbank users with fuel vouchers.
In July, we were sad to say goodbye to Jo Topley as Foodbank Manager after 7 years of amazing work supporting our community. Jo created a strong team of loyal volunteers who are committed to the work of the foodbank. In December, Beth Tanton was employed by Freedom Church and took over management of the Foodbank, getting involved straight away with our Christmas Hamper Project.
In the Summer, we gave out Holiday Packs to local families which included fresh fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, bread, and games. Across both our Romsey and North Baddesley centres, we saw 99 families compared to 40 last year.
This increased demand was expected but not to the scale we saw. During December, we also offered extra support with 3 hamper making events. Over the 3 events we saw 150 families and were able to give out over 700kg of Christmas goodies.
We would like to say a huge thank you to our volunteers who have contributed so much time to help make the Foodbank as successful as it is, and to our wider community; thank you for all that you give to the work of Romsey Foodbank.
over 21,000 kg of food was given to local families
4000kg of food was donated from local schools, churches and community groups.
99 family received Summer Holiday Packs
150 families received over 700kg of Christmas goodies
Freedom Kids has expanded and settled back into meeting every week at the Romsey school. We have been steadily growing throughout the year and now see around
35 children from ages 2 – 11 every Sunday morning.
Likewise, our team has expanded to allow us to meet the needs of our children most effectively. We still would love people to join our Freedom Kids team so we can move forward in providing better provision for our children in more groups tailored to their ages and stages. Please do get in touch with Phil if you think this is you.
TLG Early Intervention coaching has been a great success this year at Cupernham Junior School. 6 children were coached in 2022 by 5 coaches and 2023 will see 2 new coaches beginning their coaching journey at Romsey Abbey Primary School. We’ve had some brilliant moments, such as the members of staff at the school commenting on how they have never heard that child laugh at school before. Or, saying, ‘We feel very fortunate to have your coaches in school giving some of our most challenging children a positive time in the week.’ Please pray for the children and coaches as they meet and see lives changed.
Kids Club, whilst small, continues to provide a safe and welcoming environment for children in Key Stage 2 to meet and play together at the Freedom Centre each Thursday evening. This is a great place too for children on the TLG program as well as providing a place for some children from Ukraine to meet together and join in the fun.
Freedom Tots meet every Friday morning at the Freedom Centre for preschool children and their care givers. It has been wonderful to chat and play with lots of children and their families, both from in the church and out, getting to know them over coffee and one of Anne’s freshly baked cakes (thank you Anne!). We even had a visit from Father Christmas and his Elf before Christmas!
As well as being key members of the Freedom Kids team, Chris and Lizzy Honour, together with Dave and Irene, did a marvelous job planning and running an excellent Easter morning on Good Friday at the Freedom Centre. The children did crafts, ate Easter snacks and heard the Good News of Jesus presented in a fun and interesting way. In October, Freedom Kids got together with Romsey Baptist church for a Light Party, a Halloween alternative, to celebrate all that was light, bright and beautiful in our world.
We know just how special our kids are, and we are so privileged to get to know them and try to love them like Jesus does. Thank you for all you do in supporting this special ministry, we couldn’t do it without you.
Freedom Youth got off to a difficult start in 2022. Whilst the rest of the church engaged well with ‘Locations’ – Freedom Youth struggled. It wasn’t really until we gathered all together again that the young people re-emerged from their bedrooms on a Sunday morning.
There has been a large cohort shift this year, with many of our older members moving on, but we have a handful of new members who are settling in very well. We’ve also had Kirill Popov join the Freedom Youth team from Ukraine who has been insightful and lots of fun.
We now meet on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings where we have been eating lots of food, sharing our highlights and lowlights of the week. We have been learning how to follow Jesus by looking at what the Bible says about him.
Our highlights from last year were:
The Church Weekend Away
Attending a monthly youth worship gathering in Farnham
Getting to make some new friends.
Sadly Andy and Helen Yeoman who have been serving on the Freedom Youth team will be moving to Plymouth at the end of the month – we’re all gutted that they’re moving away – but ultimately excited about what God has in store for them.
If you’re passionate about stoking young people’s curiosity for Jesus and want to shape what being a part of Freedom Church feels like for them – you can do so by joining the Youth team. Otherwise – please pray for our young people to develop deep friendships with one another and a continued desire to love and serve Jesus.
Thank you for your generosity in giving faithfully to the work of Freedom Church throughout the year. In 2022 our general giving was down 3.5% on budget for the year, but we also saw a staggering 400% increase in donations and grants from the local community towards the work of Freedom Centre. Unfortunately, costs have gone up considerably over the last 12 months, resulting in a loss of £6719 for the year. If you would like to receive a more detailed set of accounts, please do speak to a member of the Trustee Board or contact the Church Office.
Into the Freedom Fund we received £9,500. We were able to do the following:
£1,500 to Ukraine
£2,000 to the Norbury family and their work with MAF
£2,500 to Servedirect for food support
£2,500 being pledged in the coming financial year
supported 7 significant hardship fund applications comprising of white goods or energy top ups
We received grants totaling £7,500 from the Trussell Trust, Aster Communities and Test Valley Borough Council to support our urgent response to the cost-of-living crisis. This support has been primarily via our Foodbank and the Warm Welcome initiative.
If you would like to discuss getting involved with giving financially to the work of Freedom Matters or Freedom Church, then head to our website or get in touch with Sarah Gay. You can give a regular monthly amount or as a one-off donation. We have lots of new ways to give too; see our donation station at the back of the hall and our team will be happy to chat through how that works.