A light on the high street
The Branch is a community shop and initiative of New Life Community Church (NLCC) located in Fordingbridge. The Branch opened its doors on Fordingbridge High Street in April 2019 with a desire to become a part of the community. This followed a prophetic word that New Life Community Church would be "a light on the high street", somewhere that would have its lights on during the day and evening for our community to come and enjoy and to see the church alive and relevant, bringing hope & life!
The Branch is both a community space and a traditional shop and we manage its numerous functions by a brilliant piece of engineering which involves a moving door on wheels, allowing the shop to be split into retail space and private space for events.
Nearly two years on, The Branch is open and meeting practical needs in a different way than we anticipated!
Covid-19 meant that by law all non-essential shops had to close. Our church administrator, Jo, felt prompted to contact Greener Living who run a Community Fridge which was facing temporary closure. The team agreed to move the fridge to The Branch, and a volunteer group put a 'Lights On' team together to make sure the shop could stay open to issue Foodbank vouchers and allow community access to the fridge. The fridge & freezer was topped up every day during the lockdowns so that people who needed to bridge the gap could top up their weekly Foodbank delivery.
The team of volunteers for The Branch are all church family members and between us we are open three full days a week and Saturday mornings. God has provided every step of the way. The Branch staying open allowed us to meet members of the community we perhaps would never have met.
In the peak of Covid-19 pandemic up to 14-20 households were using the fridge per week (up to 60-100 people if you look at this in terms of individuals). We learned people’s names, more about their circumstances, and enjoyed the chance to talk and pray with individuals.
Financially, it’s been incredible and a little like the story of the widow and the oil (1 Kings 17:8-24). We wrote many grants and applied faithfully for the funds that were needed. We received so much more than we ever expected and this has allowed us to do extras such as weekly frozen meals for families or individuals who need a little more help. We also distributed 25 Christmas hampers that included all the essentials for Christmas Day and lots of nice extras.
We started to dream of hosting a post-natal group for parents and carers, as one of our church family had qualifications in this area and a heart to host these sessions. After applying for a grant we received it within three weeks, only God!
I personally have been humbled in all of this. I was asked to oversee The Branch back in 2018 and at that point had no idea what would be involved, other than overseeing rotas and stock! Isn’t it Jesus’ way that he asks us to partner with him but he holds the master plan and doesn’t always reveal everything to us in one go. I am very glad of that because otherwise perhaps we would have been overwhelmed. We serve a huge God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine!
As we emerge from the recent lockdowns the NLCC leadership team and The Branch team are both expectant and excited about continuing to serve local families.
You can get in touch with the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
-----Nicky Williams is a member of New Life Community Church and Manager of The Branch. This post originally appeared as an article for the Commission Magazine.