On Wednesday 11th May 2022, representatives from Gospel Temple Apostolic Church were invited to a Garden Tea Party at Buckingham Palace for winning the 2021 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service at the Tottenham Food Hub during lockdown. Elder Claudette Young, a caring and empathetic volunteer who works on the frontline at the Hub, attended the event.
As someone who genuinely cares about people, Elder Claudette uses the Tottenham Food Hub as a tool to express her Christian faith in the local community. Not only does she think about the immediate needs of service-users she also shows honest concern for their long-term and eternal needs. There was one service-user who was on the verge of violence because he took exception to the presence of one of the volunteers. Rather than argue with him she clung close to him to try and open his heart to persuade him to change. He was touched by the way she explained things to him and could see that she really cared about him. It brought healing and compassion in a dignified way that had an impact on him. Not only did Elder Claudette pacify him in a very intense moment, she also sent him home happy, not because of the food, but because of common connections they both had. She literally talked him down from the edge of volatility by connecting with him in a spirit that he found appealing. His situation may not have changed but his perception of the situation had changed.
Elder Claudette’s motivation for volunteering at the Hub is to do something for a better cause rather than her own betterment. She would rather starve so that someone else in need can be fed in order to build bridges with people in the community. Her kindness and inclusion of the homeless and unemployed has mobilised some into employment so that they are no longer dependent on food banks.
Also in attendance was Pastor Jason Young. He speaks about his experience of being a part of this celebration.
“After queuing up for almost two hours outside of Buckingham Palace in the pouring rain, we finally gained entrance and made our way to the Main Tea Tent for afternoon tea. The delicately cut finger sandwiches were heartwarming even though the edge of the tent was dripping with water where there were tables to rest your sandwich plate on. Eventually, the rain stopped and a few of us made our way out into the sun. Just as we were about to cross the lawn to the back of the palace, an Anglican clergyman and his clergy wife crossed our path in a very calculating and decisive way. It was a meeting, or should I say a clash, of two different cultures. We had no alternative but to engage with each other as fellow clergy and then the quintessential English question came up: “Are you local?” which is code for “where are you from originally?” It was not a show of solidarity between clergymen but rather a carefully guarded question of “what are you doing here?” Rather than being alienated by the question I returned the question to him upon which he responded: “Peterborough”. We then progressed to a more agreeable conversation before enjoying the rest of the occasion. But the encounter did open my eyes to the clientele in attendance.
“Whilst there were plenty of Anglican clergymen in attendance there were no Black British pastors in clergy attire. There were Africans in military uniform and traditional attire but no black pastors in clergy uniform. African and Caribbean communities were in attendance as diplomats and ordinary civilians but not as clergy. If there were black pastors there then I either did not see them or they were not dressed in clergy attire. My presence in that space was a counterculture to established clergy.
“At the Tottenham Food Hub, we like to make people feel welcome because we are giving people. Most people have minimal sympathy for the unemployed and the homeless. But as Christians, we like to make ourselves available to the disadvantaged because the gospel is good news to the poor. The process by which we redistribute food is just as important as distributing the food itself. We are an inclusive church that stands in commonality with the unemployed and those who have been disadvantaged from the workplace. Our work is to reach people through food and touch their personal lives to mobilise them towards their destiny.”
Written by: Rev. Jason Young