The Local Church (TLC) is the name we give to our ecumenical partnership in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town. We continue to strengthen the three churches’ Covenant established seven years ago between St Columba’s by the Castle Episcopal Church and Augustine United Reformed Church and Greyfriars, Tolbooth & Highland Kirk.
Over the years we have created more than 300 volunteering opportunities at Greyfriars. These involve everything from stewarding at concerts, welcoming visitors, working on the Greyfriars Herb Garden in the Kirkyard and social outreach to people with experience of homelessness. We could not do all we do without the great support of our ecumenical partners and people from further afield.
Our social outreach to homeless and marginalised people brings together volunteers from all branches of the church and some with no church connection. The great strength of our activity is that people with widely different theological opinions come together in a shared ministry of service to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
We provide well over 500 meals per week for the homeless and others in need. We offer opportunities to work in the Herb Garden, volunteer in our Grassroots classroom, where people do arts and crafts work and learn new skills, or volunteer in our woodwork social enterprise where former church pews are turned into beautiful pieces of furniture for sale. The enterprise is called GRoW (Greyfriars Recycling of Wood).
There are over 200 people using our service on a regular basis. There are over 150 volunteers engaged in providing these social services. This means that we serve in the region of 30,000 free meals in the course of a year and provide as many as 15,000 hours of volunteering opportunities in this community service alone each year.
All the time we are developing new opportunities for people to learn skills and enjoy success through the Greyfriars Community Project that is situated in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh. Very soon we hope to begin weaving cloth on our own full sized loom and are about to establish a knitting, mending and sewing group to encourage people to reject our throw away culture and mend and make their own clothing once more.
The Greyfriars Community Project is just one aspect of the life of the wider Greyfriars community in which people with multiple needs are cherished and supported and given educational and training opportunities. None of this work could be undertaken without the support of our ecumenical partners. So, whilst people speak gloomily about the state of the ecumenical movement at an institutional level, at the grassroots, where the work of caring for “the least of these” is undertaken, ecumenism is thriving.