Christmas is a season for kindness, a time to offer a fresh message of hope. As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, many people continue to live isolated from friends, family, and community; often struggling with financial distress, poor health, job uncertainty and bereavement.

Love Christmas brings change by drawing people together to share Bags of Kindness. It strengthens personal connections in communities across the UK and lets people know they are not alone. Love Christmas is a national initiative, growing through a network of thousands of churches and other local organisations, connecting people of all faiths and none.

Last year, when Fr. Dermott Donnelly launched the Love Christmas programme in our family of parishes at St. Joseph’s, Stanley, St. Patrick’s, Dipton and The Sacred Heart, Byermoor in November, he hoped that we could raise £600, so that we could distribute 15 Christmas boxes to each of our 4 primary schools.

We asked if parishioners could donate £10 to sponsor a Christmas box for one of our primary school children and we asked our primary schools to each nominate 15 children to receive one of the Christmas boxes.

Together with support from Asda, as well as match funding from Love Christmas and with the many generous donations from parishioners, we were delighted to be able to announce that we raised £2,400 and were able to provide 240 Christmas boxes, which meant that we were able to distribute 60 Christmas boxes to each of our primary schools on behalf of our parishioners.

We were so overwhelmed by last year’s generous responses that Fr. Dermott has decided to run the campaign again this year, this time the Partnership Priests have agreed to register as a partnership and we are responding as the 10 Churches in the Pontop Partnership and are liaising closely with local primary schools to involve them too. We are again asking for donations of £10 to sponsor a bag of kindness and like last year, the bags will be packed and delivered by Clergy and parishioners. We have advertised throughout our Partnership and Fr. Dermott has hosted a national webinar to explain about Love Christmas and share ideas and experiences gained last year.

Other Churches and groups in our Diocese have already registered and there is still time for other Churches to participate. For more information, please visit www.loveyourneighbour.uk.

Love Christmas launches nationally on Thursday 25 November.