Moderator sees how Alloa church project is helping feed its community
Published on 29 August 2022 3 minutes read
A church project which is helping combat hunger in its local area has been given the stamp of approval by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at a belated dedication service.
St Mungo's Parish Church in Alloa invited Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields to learn more about the impact the church's community café and garden are having on their community.
The Moderator was also asked to lead a dedication service which had been initially planned to mark the opening of the café, but was postponed by the Covid-19 crisis.
"It is great to see a church using its resources and the talents of its people to think outside the box," Dr Greenshields said.
"The community café and garden are at the core of St Mungos' weekly outreach, and their enthusiastic congregation and minister have combined to seek to make a real difference in their community."
Since its opening, the café has helped provide affordable meals for local residents, provided a meeting place for the community and helped raise funds to help the church support those in need.
The café has also seen a total turnover of £71,900 and served 9,433 people. This has raised profits of over £38,500 which the church has been able to use for its mission in the greater Alloa area and beyond.
"We are doing serious work here," St Mungo's minister Rev Sang Yoon Cha said.
Rev Cha, who was born in Korea and brought up in New Jersey, was looking at ways in which the church could do more to support those in need in the town when congregation member and award-winning chef Billy Campbell, who has cooked for US President Bill Clinton and both UK and Hollywood royalty, offered to put his five decades of experience in the hospitality sector at the service of the church.
Garden to table menu
"Billy Campbell, who is one of our elders, was retiring after having been an executive chef in five-star hotels. He suggested we should start a café as a place where we could create encounters and I thought it was a great idea," Rev Cha said.
The success of the café led to St Mungo's creating a new community garden, which is already reaping rewards for the congregation's efforts.
"On January 12, we broke ground, but that ground has been lying fallow for 200 years," Rev Cha said.
"Last weekend we harvested a courgette the length of my forearm because the ground is so fertile.
"The garden has blossomed this spring, yielding fresh locally sourced quality ingredients for our garden-to-table menu. Everything on the café menu is made from scratch.
"The garden has been a community effort, bringing together many diverse local organizations and volunteers from all walks of life."
Rev Cha now hopes to involved local beekeepers, providing the garden with its own resident bees to enhance and pollinate the garden, while local primary schools will be offered their own patches of the garden to cultivate.
Thanks in part to the café and community garden, the church is now open seven days a week. Among the local organisations making use of the facility, is youth group Connect.
"I asked them why they choose to come here because they could go to any secular space in the town, and they said: ‘Because this is our home,'" Rev Cha said.
"They have also helped with the café and the garden so there is a real symbiotic and organic relationship."
With the prospect of soaring energy bills, Rev Cha is also making plans for the church to play a part in helping the community cope with the increase in living costs.
"Now the heating is on in the café four days a week, we are trying to initiate a programme we wish to call Warm Together," he revealed.
"We want to invite folks in from the parish to converse and to fight loneliness and isolation, use the prayer space in the chancel and to find creative solutions to the looming fuel poverty crisis."