HOME-MADE cakes, coffee, and doughnuts, as well as emotional and practical support, are being offered by church workers in Exeter to university students who are locked down under tight Covid restrictions.
Churches, including Exeter Network Church, St Leonard’s, St Matthew’s, and Unlimited Church, which have many students in their congregations, this week launched a dedicated email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — at which they can seek assistance.
At least half the 486 Covid cases recorded in Devon last week were among students at the University of Exeter.
The leader of Unlimited Church, the Revd James Grier, said that, so far, more offers of help than requests had come by email. “It is still early days, but we have an abundance of promises of home-baked cake in readiness. So far, we have given cake parcels to eight different student households. We are now focusing on getting the offer better known by students via social media.” Unlimited Church has also been offering hot drinks and doughnuts on the Cathedral Green.
Mr Grier said that students’ social isolation and anxiety must be huge. “A time of fun and joy has been overshadowed by limitations and the need for caution. Local media coverage and anxiety about the spread of Covid must be causing students to feel that the city is wary of them, or judging of them, rather than warmly welcoming them. As the church, we want to say that they are so welcome and loved. Cake and other help seems to be a great way to do that.”
Another church in Exeter, St Michael and All Angels, is offering a weekly Dial-a-Toastie service; and up to 100 students from the Exeter Network Church are providing Covid-secure outdoor coffees, walks, shopping deliveries, and conversation for anyone feeling lonely or upset.
The Archdeacon of Exeter, the Ven. Andrew Beane, who is helping to co-ordinate the initiative, said that it would connect students with a church if they were self-isolating, feeling alone, afraid, or worried, or wanted to connect with the community. “The message that we want to give is that we are here to help,” he said.