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John Mowatt, seeking fellowship and a catch up with mates, gets a cuppa from kitchen crew George Rendall (front), Barb Cochrane and Steve Bevin at the first Baptist Church free lunch post-Covid-19 restric tions.

Covid-19 may have stretched resources in some Mid Canterbury homes but a hot meal and friendship is back on the menu at Ashburton Baptist Church.

Lunch this week under the guidance of George Rendall, in charge of the kitchen and its 14-strong roster of volunteers, was vegetable soup, spaghetti bolognaise with carrot cake to finish.

The once-a-week, free offering which changes each week, was well supported before Covid-19, and organisers are expecting there could be more interest if people face hardships or financial pressure in the coming months.

But they are more than ready with not just their community lunch, but with pastoral support, advice or just a listening ear.

Interim senior pastor Bill Avenell said the church offered a range of services including a pastoral care team who were able to help people in a range of needs.

They offered meals, assisted with clothing or household items in emergency situations or just a friendly face and fellowship.

“We endeavour to cater to the needs of the community,” he said.

The family-friendly church, able to feed people’s bellies as well as their souls, has an open door policy and is not just restricted to those within the church.

They promise not to bombard people with a Bible when they walk in but do offer a range of activities for people to join, on top of their regular Sunday service with fellowship afterwards.

They include a knitting group for any skill level, a mums and bubs/preschoolers group, youth bible study for Year 7 to Year 13 students, home connect bible study groups and a Christian Rejoice Group especially for people with disabilities. But there are resthome services and plenty of social gatherings too.

There is also the Christian-based Girls’ Brigade, run on site, and Boys’ Brigade which is run off site. Both organisations, for children aged five to 18 from any denomination, give children a chance to meet others in the district, doing fun activities and learning about life skills.

Mr Avenell said the pastoral care team have people who can cook and freeze meals for people in stressful situations whether its those who are sick or have newborns in the house.

They can also help in times of need such as losses from a house fire or those seeking financial assistance; Christians Against Poverty is based at the church during the week and can help with budget advice and debt counselling support.

He said anyone was welcome to pop in to the office, which is open five days a week, whether it be people who are just lonely, those looking to join a group or others who have lost their job and are considering the next course of action.