Romsey Baptist Church’s volunteer-run Community Café strives for a more mentally healthy community, and it opens its doors to all, religious or not.

The café was started by a frequent church goer, Bronwen Clemons, as a means of looking after more vulnerable members.

Bronwen is a mental health nurse. She said: “I noticed how at the weekends all clubs stopped, and that must be lonely for some people.”

Originally, the café started as a small event on the first Saturday of the month, as an attempt to tackle weekend loneliness. Since the pandemic, and its lockdown measures, the café has grown to be so much more. 

A frequent attendee, Kevin, said he was recommended to the café after some struggles with some unwell family members.

He said: “I wasn’t sure if I would fit in, I’m not religious, but it really is a safe place here.”

The anxieties he felt about attending were quickly tackled by the warm volunteers and other chatty attendees.

Many attendees live in Romsey, and commute by foot or bicycle, but the success of the café is also apparent upon those in surrounding villages, like Awbridge and Lockerley. 

Many attendees seek consolation and a chance to talk their worries out with someone who will listen.

Debbie, who renewed her vows at Romsey Baptist Church, said: “Thanks to the café I had a chance to get my life back.”

She had experienced some issues, and the café was a lifeline she could rely on to help her through. She said the warmness and general kindness of the community in Romsey is truly magical and something every community should strive to have, in order for people to help each other out.

Though some of those who attend the café are religious and attend the Sunday service, Jan described why (as an atheist) she attends the Saturday café. She said: “I love hearing these interesting stories and the people are simply wonderful.” 

Since becoming bigger, Romsey Baptist Church’s Community Café has become a weekly event and one attendee even said people from far out places, like Southampton, travel to attend.

Graham, who only lives a short walk from the church, said: “The people are just friendly and the atmosphere really portrays this.” 

The café serves a vital purpose to all who attend, religious or otherwise. It allows anyone to feel safe and welcomed, as a means of improving wellbeing and allowing stories and memories to be shared and listened to. It truly brings all from different paths in life together to a welcoming atmosphere. Of course, the café meets Bronwen's original goal, to improve the mental health of its attendees and allow community connection at the weekend.

  • This article was written by Lilly Beeson, from Peter Symonds College, as part of Newsquest's Young Reporter Scheme.