If ever there was a picture-perfect definition of ‘faithful to the cause’, it’s The Rainbow Shop at St Andrew’s Church in Countesthorpe, and its longstanding loyalty to Christian Aid.
Since 1984, the dedicated church community has raised more than £250,000 for the UK charity which fights global poverty.
An extension of the church’s hospitality and mission, the shop is something of a social hub, serving tea, coffee and biscuits, as well as selling generously donated second-hand goods, good-as-new clothes, Fair Trade products and wholefoods.
They also stock eco-friendly products and can order from an extensive range, as part of the church’s wider eco-conscious commitment.
Dr Sally Bailey, deputy church warden, and member of St Andrew’s for more than 40 years, was there at The Rainbow Shop’s creation and today coordinates its team of volunteers.
Inspired by the then Vicar Brian Davis and his wife Sylvia, in response to the shocking TV coverage of desperately starving people in Ethiopia, the heart to ‘do more to help’ was apparent, explains Sally.
“In our house group we were studying Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, which made us all think about our wealth,” she says. “We held a successful ‘Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale’ and started a drop in for lonely people but found that people didn’t really want to walk in proclaiming their loneliness. They needed another reason to pop-by.”
Sylvia was already buying and bagging up wholefoods from Co-op, to help people eat better and more cost effectively. It was also the beginning of the Traidcraft movement, with people hosting product parties in their homes and swopping good-as-new clothes in a bid to reuse and recycle.
Alongside the need to create a caring hub for people to meet up and make friends, all these things came together to create The Rainbow Shop.
The church community joined forces, tools in their hands and goodwill in their hearts, to get the shop – based out of a building next to the church - ready for opening.
Today, Sally says their hard-working team of volunteers is made up of church family and community, some of whom might not necessarily call themselves Christians, but are ‘lovely and welcoming’.
Jill Cramp is one such caring member of the team who has also been involved since day one, back in 1984. The Rainbow Shop ‘means a great deal’ to her, and she particularly loves how the shop has become a thriving community space for people to drop in on regularly.
“People look forward to coming, and that’s just wonderful,” says Jill. “None of us could ever have imagined that the shop would still be open nearly 40 years later and that we would have raised such a large sum of money.”
She continues: “From a Christian perspective it has been good for me and all our wonderful helpers that we have been able to be involved with actions and not just words.”
Sally agrees, adding: “God is here: in people making relationships, informing one another and caring for each other and the wider community. Some come to church once they’ve made those connections, others just appreciate the companionship. I believe God made us to be in relationships and that’s what we’re trying to be a catalyst for.”
So why support Christian Aid, and for so long?
“It has such an extensive history and trusted reputation as a charity,” explains Sally. “It works in ongoing situations in developing countries, supporting everyone from struggling families to farmers; it acts in a crisis, so when the Ukrainian War broke out, for instance, it mobilised aid alongside partner charities - in fact, it began as a charity helping refugees after the second world war; and it campaigns, thereby helping to change situations.”
The shop displays a range of information and leaflets detailing the work of Christian Aid and Fair Trade, as well as signing posting people to local support, groups, and events.
In just shy of four decades, to have raised a quarter of a million pounds for Christian Aid, is certainly something to be celebrated.
“It’s wonderful to think the amount of good that money has done over the years, to help people here and around the world,” says Sally. “It’s just people giving small amounts of money, and small amounts of time, but persisting in it. All we can do is thank God.”
St Andrew’s Church in Countesthorpe is holding a Spring Fair in support of Christian Aid in the church grounds on Saturday 13 May, 10am – 1pm.