Churches in Exeter have launched a dedicated StudentHelp service offering emotional and practical support for university students under local lockdown restrictions.
It includes delivering food to students self-isolating, a “dial-a-toastie” service, socially-distanced tours of the city for freshers, outdoor coffee meet-ups, running groups and online and in-person church services and small groups.
Churches with a particular student focus have created a single StudentHelp email address for students or their parents to get in touch if they would like help.
The Archdeacon of Exeter, Andrew Beane, who is helping co-ordinate the initiative, said: “We will connect you with a local church who might be able to help you if you are self-isolating, feeling alone, afraid, worried or just want to make a connection with the local community.
“The message that we want to give is that we are here to help.”
University students in Exeter are not currently permitted to meet indoors with anyone who is not in their own household following a rising number of coronavirus cases on campus.
Rich Kelly, one of the Student leaders at Exeter Network Church, said, “We are aiming to mobilise students from our church, numbering towards 100, to reach out to Freshers and go for Covid-secure outdoor coffees and walks in order to provide pastoral support as well as an introduction to the city.
“We can also deliver shopping to anyone we know of who is isolating.”
Unlimited Church has been giving away hot drinks and doughnuts on Cathedral Green.
The Reverend Helen Sherlock said they were linked with students via the national Fusion Movement App, which students can download if they would like to connect with a local church.
The Student Pastor at St Matt’s Church, Revd Matt Clayton, said “Whilst most of our mid-week gatherings have now moved online, we’re looking for creative places outside to meet up with students in households, to make sure every student knows they are loved, seen, heard and wanted.”
The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Robert Atwell, said
“Going to uni should be an adventure, exciting if a bit scary. Our churches are here to offer support and a listening ear to any student who is anxious or worried.”