IN THE SOUP: (From left:) Women’s Director Cynthia Spence, Bishop Deverton Douglas, Bishop Dr Derek Webley, MBE, and Director of Mission Marion Wilson
IN ONE of his last official duties at his church, Bishop Dr Derek Webley donned a pinafore and ladled out mugs of hot broth at his church’s newly opened soup kitchen in the heart of inner city Birmingham.
The popular Bishop leaves the New Testament Church of God (NTCG) in George Street, Lozells at the end of the year to take up a national posting as treasurer and secretary at the NTCG’s headquarters in Northampton.
His successor will be Bishop Deverton Douglas, currently Pastor of the NTCG in Deptford, London, where he is also Overseer of the Deptford District.
Although sad to be leaving Lozells, Webley said the long-awaited soup kitchen project represented what the church was all about – touching lives in practical ways.
At the official opening he said: “The heart of God drives us to serve humanity so it’s important that we support everyone here – those of faith and no faith. It’s at the very heart of what our church represents.”
Marion Wilson, the church’s Director of Mission, who will work with Women’s Director Cynthia Spence, said the soup kitchen had been a vision which had now been realised, thanks to a unique collaboration with the community to support the vulnerable and the excluded in society.
She said: “Many projects start and fold, but by working together we know we have the motivation to make this succeed. We are going to do great things, mark my words. This is an historic moment.”
Sister Beverley Stephens, of the Women of Destiny Ladies Ministry, said there had been a real urgency and need to get this project up and running.
She said: “Collectively we can make a difference. When we trialled this project, those who used it got such a lot from it.”
The soup kitchen will be open every Tuesday between 12 noon and 2pm.
Apart from food, the community engagement project will offer support with everyday matters such as filling forms, accessing services or simply providing a welcome base where people can meet and talk.
The project has been helped with funding from the Big Lottery, Awards for All, the city council and the church itself.
Bishop Webley, the former chair of the West Midlands Police Authority, praised the support of local councillors Mahmood Hussain and Waseem Zaffar in setting up the project, adding that they had helped to encourage projects which spanned all sections of the community.
Councillor Zaffar said that in an ideal world there would be no need for soup kitchens, but added that faith communities in Birmingham were leading the way with this kind of work.
On welcoming his successor to the launch, Bishop Webley urged everyone within the church to show him the same support that he had been given over the years.
“Do what you have always done for me,” said Bishop Webley. “Be there for him.”