One of the great things about our community is how we look out for each other. In the pandemic, neighbours rallied round to help elderly and vulnerable people living nearby. Whether it was getting a prescription for a shielding family or dropping off a food parcel, volunteers were active all over Dover & Deal.
Last week I was again struck by our strength of community when I was at two events. First when I visited the Ukrainian welcome centre. Second when I attended the retirement celebration of Father Jeff Cridland, the long serving priest in charge of St Paul’s Dover and St Finbarrs Aylesham.
It is now a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. We have seen unspeakable brutality by the Russians – met by remarkable bravery of the Ukrainians. Our Government has led the way internationally in its support for Ukraine. We have provided money, arms and intelligence on a huge scale.
Yet it is not just our Government that has been there for the Ukrainians. It has been so many in our communities too. When the Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched, the response from our community was amazing.
At the welcome centre I heard of the incredibly strong bonds in our community with Ukrainian refugees being supported. This underlines the kindness, generosity and community spirit we have in Dover & Deal.
That community spirit was greatly in evidence at the retirement celebration of Father Jeff. Many different groups had been busy preparing the food. This included a superb curry and a showcase cake worthy of British Bake Off from Father Jeff’s niece Antonia.
The head teachers of local Catholic schools were also there, underlining the enduring bond between faith and education. The celebration was packed. Small wonder – because Father Jeff has served as a priest for many decades. He has been steadfast in his support for those facing challenges. Whether the heartache of a break-up or the loss of a loved one, Father Jeff was always there for everyone. Just as he was, to look in on people who were not well and check they were OK.
Just as Father Jeff served our community, so our community in turn came out to celebrate him and his work. This matters because the church is one of the vital building blocks that bind our community together.
Our sense of community is one of the greatest things about Dover & Deal. We must never stop caring about each other. We must always be there for those who need us. Whether it is a Ukrainian refugee. The housebound person on Father Jeff’s visit list. Or the person down our street we keep an eye on to make sure they are managing OK.
The way we all rallied round in the pandemic was no flash in the pan. It was the hallmark of who we are in our community. One brought home to me again last week. Long may it continue.