Community is at the heart of everything that City Church Belfast does. It's home to a Foodbank, shared community space, café and gardens and also runs weekly toddler and debt advice sessions, to support its local residents.
The church first held a Big Lunch in 2014 and it was such a success, they have organised and supported several events since, with a few years off during the pandemic.
Over 250 people attended that first Big Lunch and it marked a turning point for the local community, as Church Co-Leader Joan Vaughan explains:
“Our first Big Lunch was fantastic as it gave people a chance to chat and share the things they have in common. There have been a number of cultural changes here since and we’ve seen a big increase in the number of asylum seekers in the area – as well as a rise in anti-social behaviour – both of which have made us think now is the time to get back involved.
It will be great to bring different groups together to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate our many cultures with The Big Lunch this year.”
Celebrating World Refugee Week during The Month of Community
City Church is organising its third Big Lunch event on Sunday 19 June 2022, to coincide with World Refugee Week and be part of the Month of Community. They are working with the local Romanian, Ethiopian, Brazilian and Eritrean communities and The Belfast Friendship Club to organise an International Food Festival - to celebrate Belfast’s diversity and welcome newcomers to the area.
The Belfast Friendship Club (BFC) is a weekly heartbeat in the city, that has been welcoming newcomers and locals alike, into its warm and thriving environment since 2009.
Their simple agenda is to host a safe, inclusive and impartial space so that everyone can relax, be themselves and form meaningful connections with one another - irrespective of all the usual barriers that separate people. BFC helped to organise The Big Lunch 2017, as part of the Great Get Together, and is excited about this years' event, as coordinator Stephanie Mitchell explains:
“The aim of the event was to bring together our diverse communities and celebrate what we have in common. We served international food platters and 350 people came along. It was a joyous day of togetherness and we’re looking forward to another fantastic event this year”.
The church has been granted its road closure by Belfast City Council – one of the many Platinum Councils supporting The Big Lunch with free closures for street parties this year. The event will once again take place in the street to the side of the church, with trestle tables down the middle and communities encouraged to bring a traditional cultural dish of their choice.
Strengthening community spirit, post-pandemic
The local community has, like many, been greatly affected the Covid-19 Pandemic, making this years’ Big Lunch all the more needed. Church Co-Leader Joan Vaughan said:
“The church has been supporting the more vulnerable in community, but there's lots of fear around. People have been missing social contact and there have been some issues with social anxiety - as the restrictions have lifted and we’ve started mixing again. Our approach has been to invite people to do something small to start with as it’s only with baby steps that we’ll start to re-build our strength and feel comfortable socialising again.”
It is hoped that although big, The Big Lunch 2022 will provide a nice informal way for people to come together, safely outside. All are welcome with open arms!
Bringing Christian values to life
The Big Lunch chimes with many of the churches' core values of welcoming a stranger and encouraging kindness, compassion and joy. It is, after all, for everyone. The first 14 years of The Big Lunch have shown its power to bring people of different backgrounds together, help combat loneliness and initiate new friendships. Read more about The Big Impact.
Many churches and Big Lunchers also use their events to fundraise for local causes, giving it a charitable dimension too. In 2021 a massive £7.4 million was raised at Big Lunch events, most of that staying with local charities and causes - helping those that need it most.