Free Afternoon Tea (Felton URC)

Felton URC Afternoon Tea (Free)
Coffee, cake, company and chat

The idea for the afternoon tea came from a radio programme that one of our elders was listening to. Her immediate reaction was that it was something we could do as a Church and she also felt that the impact of isolation and loneliness was as real in our small Northumbrian village as in the village mentioned on the radio. This is borne out when you take into consideration statistics from websites such as The Campaign to End Loneliness which says that over half those aged 75 and over live alone and that 59% of adults over 52 and who are in poor health say they feel lonely some of the time.

Our village has a coffee shop that is known far and wide because of their own afternoon teas and the quality of its cakes. However in recent years, even to go in for a cup of coffee, it is necessary to book at table especially in the afternoon. So many local folk who used to go to the cafe now have nowhere to socialise and enjoy company. Therefore it offered an opening for Felton URC to offer such a place where people from the community could come and spend a couple of hours and enjoy homemade cake, tea and filter coffee for free with no strings attached. We also offer transport, so if people are unable to get to the church we will happily collect them from home.



Where did the idea come from? How did it start?
The idea came from a radio interview and the afternoon teas that were so popular at the local coffee shop.

It began by one person taking a lead, she then drew in other people as they were needed to bake, make sandwiches and serve the tea. Generally there are only two or three needed to serve the tea. We also began with a 6 month trial of one tea a month as we felt that this was doable and realistic. The trial went well and the tea has now offered once a month for over 18 months.

Who is it for and what needs is it meeting?
Anyone is welcome to come along to the tea and generally there is a mix of men and women, though older members of the community predominate.

This project is combating loneliness and isolation, it enables people who live alone to share a meal with others and also means that they have one less meal to think about in the week.

What preparation did you do?
We had a conversation with the elders who thought it was a good idea and then sought out volunteers to help bake and run the event. We also drew on local knowledge of those who might be interested in coming along.

What resources did you need and how did you find them?
People who baked were already known to the elders. We already had space as the Church hall was available and whilst everything is made off site and brought to the event we do have a domestic cooker on site where sausage rolls etc can be reheated. We also wanted to offer “proper” coffee rather than instant so a member of the Church found a commercial filter coffee machine on ebay. We also needed a little pot of money for various expenses such as the banner and ingredients, and this initially came from the Church funds. However, whilst we made no charge the people who came wanted to contribute to the tea. So we now put a pot out for donations and these have, so far, covered the expenses of the teas. However the church is happy to support this event financially as it is away of giving to the local community and blessing them.

Who have been your partners in this project?
At present we don’t have any partners.

How did the congregation get on board?
The congregation came on board by offering help with baking, serving and transporting people to the tea. The minister puts out the tables after the Monday night Pilates which he attends and also got the banner printed for us

What were the key steps to get from idea to day 1 and how long did it take?
The first step was for the idea to come to the elders meeting and the elders to give their backing to it and for Heather to be empowered to take it forward. She then approached people in person about helping out with the event and has now got a list of people who will bake and is able to call on different people so that folk get a break from helping out.

What legislation did you have to deal with?
About two years before we began the afternoon tea our kitchen had been refurbished and registered with the council. We were also fortunate to have people with food hygiene certificates. These are not difficult to get as much of it is common sense and they can be done online. It also helped having people who were used to looking after elderly relatives and so were happy to transport folk to the tea.


What impact has this had on the life of the community?
It has met a need with in some for a chance to gather and chat that they otherwise might not have. It has also created a small group who enjoy one anothers company and look forward to coming each month.

How has this changed the relationship between the church and the community?
It has offered inspiration to others to see that organising something like this isn’t rocket science. It has also brought our hall in to use by people who hadn’t used it before. It has also been useful in building the relationship with the Church of England in the village as some of the C of E congregation come along to the tea.


How does the project connect with your faith and vision?
We have a gift of hospitality and the resources to be able to do this. At the time the tea was set up we also wanted to draw members of the community into the life of the Church and develop the congregation. Therefore, whilst some of the folk who come are already members of our church, but it has also opened up the opportunity for conversations with folk who had once attended and now had got out of the habit and to find out why and offer a fresh invitation to join us again.

How has the life of the church been transformed because of this project?
Many of the things that the church were doing have ceased. However this has been a really positive project as out of the death of other activities it has freed the resources for something new to be built. It might also open up the possibility for this to develop into a fresh expression of Church as many of the folk who come are sympathetic to the Christian faith.

Additional Resources and web links
The Campaign to End Loneliness
Bible Reading Fellowship, “The gift of years”
Online food hygiene courses

Contact details
Rev. Edward Butlin, 01670 783452,