** Above image of Bishop Michael and friends used with permission from Wolverhampton Express & Star **

Guest Blog by Pete Bate - Director of Communications for Lichfield Diocese

The Bishop of Lichfield had his cake and ate it when he visited church volunteers in Tipton who are offering a warm welcome to local people.

The Place of Welcome opened over two years ago at St Matthew’s in Tipton. Volunteers there were pleased to welcome the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, when he dropped in for a cuppa.

Places of Welcome is a network of small community organisations, including churches, who offer an unconditional welcome to local people for at least a few hours each week.

The initiative is spreading across the Midlands and other parts of the country with over 200 venues taking part. Places of Welcome are run by local groups who want to make sure that everyone in their area has a place to go for a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation.

Bishop Michael said: “It is wonderful that so many churches are involved in Places of Welcome which help to bring people from the darkness of loneliness and isolation to the light of companionship and friendship.

“I received a very warm welcome from the volunteers at St Matthew’s which is a hub of activity, offering a friendly and safe place for people to meet, chat and enjoy the hospitality on offer. It is a great way for the church to open its doors to the local community and encourage fellowship and community spirit.”

Places of Welcome are sponsored and supported by Transforming Communities Together, a joint venture between the Church Urban Fund and the Diocese of Lichfield.

Helen Titterton, Places of Welcome Enabler, said: “It was wonderful to have Bishop Michael's endorsement of the Places of Welcome movement which will hopefully encourage more organisations to take part in the network."

Places of Welcome is a grassroots movement that began in Birmingham. It has five values ensure that each venue is open at the same time and place for at least a few hours every week and is welcoming to anyone wanting to attend:

  • Place: An accessible and hospitable building, open at the same time every week.
  • People: Open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation, and staffed by volunteers.
  • Presence: A place where people actively listen to one another.
  • Provision: Offering free refreshments and basic local information.
  • Participation: Recognises that every person coming to a Place of Welcome will bring talents, experiences and skills that they might be willing to share locally.

There are no charges for joining Places of Welcome, and anyone can start one in their community. Places of Welcome can be in any location including churches, mosques, temples, community centres or housing associations.

Find out more at the new Places of Welcome website