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Churches challenge Valentine’s Day commercialisation with #reallove your neighbour campaign

Romantic restaurant meals for two won’t happen this Valentine’s Day, but the pressure to buy cards, flowers, chocolates and gifts to show our love is more evident than ever.

This year, however, churches across the UK have launched the RealLove campaign (reallovestory.co.uk) which will continue throughout the year, to replace bought presents with free gifts.

#RealLove is attempting to change the narrative around Valentine’s Day from one of commercialism to ‘Love your Neighbour’.

Schoolchildren in Wakefield receive their hearts

Churches will focus on the lonely, vulnerable, isolated and key workers who are finding lockdown difficult. The objective is to share love with them, show them that people care about their wellbeing to support their mental health.

Every precaution is being taken to make the gifts – anything from heart-shaped biscuits to heart mementoes – ‘Covid secure’. All food is cooked in kitchens which are cleaned in line with Covid requirements and packed the same way.  

Why?

The idea behind the hearts is to reach people with the message that they are not forgotten and are loved and valued – particularly during the pandemic when many are struggling.

Organiser and Wakefield Methodist minister, Rev Rob Cotton says: “We want to show that Jesus’ love is real and free and that Christians, in local communities, are taking the time to reach out because they want to share the love of Jesus with as many people as possible at a time when loneliness and isolation are rife.

Some of the gifts

“The exciting thing at this time is that as we launch the ‘Real Love’ campaign this weekend, it is becoming part of a much wider movement within the church, where we put our faith into practice.

“At this time, we are particularly concerned about people’s mental health and feel that ‘Real Love’ will generate a ‘feel-good factor’ in local communities and give everyone a much-needed boost.”

Rob wants to this to be the start of a movement that reaches more people.

In Northwich, Cheshire, Churches are giving out 500 cards to those who are isolated and vulnerable but also the unsung heroes of the community such as teachers. The cards were created by a local man and show a rainbow with the word “Hope” written on the front.

Partnering with RealLove is Zac’s House Kingdom Community Church led by the Rev Neil Stanton who says Christians want people to know they are “seen, valued and loved”.  

Heart biscuits

The cards add to the work the church is already doing such as giving out food parcels at Christmas, to those in need, called ‘Boxes of Hope’.

Christians in the Knutsford area have sent out over 100 handmade Valentines’ cards to people who are isolated and vulnerable. The cards are building on the work they already do as part of the ‘Buddy scheme,’ where church members team up with people who are elderly, may have dementia, be on their own, and/or isolated because of Covid. Church members speak regularly to their ‘buddy’ on the telephone or, when Covid rules allow, they help with shopping or have a ‘socially distanced’ chat.

So far, Methodist churches in the area have given out small gifts of posies on Harvest Festival Sunday, poppies on Remembrance Day, and cards at Christmas.

The Rev Alan Bradley, a Methodist Minister, says: “It’s to remind people that we are praying for them, and they are in our thoughts, and that they are loved by God. It’s keeping that contact and something physical helps people and they can put it on their mantelpiece and it reminds them that they are not alone at this time.”

So show you care by sharing the #reallove on social media.

Main pic: Zac’s House Kingdom Community Church, the Rev Neil Stanton

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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