By Kerenza Moore
“COMMUNITY is a really strong and powerful way of helping people change if they want to. We want to be somewhere that anyone, no matter who they are, can feel they belong.”
Teresa Conway, Liskeard’s brand new Salvation Army captain, is settling in to her new office at the Citadel on Church Street. It’s just her fifth day in the job after relocating from Stroud, in Gloucestershire. In her six years there, she’d established a Recovery Church for people she describes as “on the fringes” – those in or coming out of addiction, struggling with mental health, or homeless.
It’s a move back to home turf in South East Cornwall for Teresa, who grew up in Plymouth; her family is originally from Cawsand. She’s come to Liskeard with her husband Nick, who has taken up a job at Glassmoon’s supported living facility in the town.
Teresa explains her journey into the Salvation Army, and how after careers in catering and retail management she had been working as a prison teacher.
“I was a team leader for community-based education for prisoners, and I worked in Dartmoor and Challingwood prisons,” she said.
“I’d also been working with the prison chaplaincy team on the Inner Change programme, which uses biblical and spiritual principles to help prevent re-offending.”Teresa added: “I met some Salvation Army officers while I was in Dartmoor who became really good friends of ours. I went and attended their church and I stayed because of the ethos of the Salvation Army, which is to help those on the fringes.”
The Salvation Army is a church first and foremost but also a social enterprise – its work fits somewhere in between those two things, Teresa explains.
“The strap line of the Salvation Army that really speaks to me is “Hand to Man, Heart to God”.
“Whatever we do, it’s about giving somebody a hand up, not a hand out. It’s giving somebody an opportunity.”
Teresa says she is passionate about supporting those on the edges, those who say they sometimes feel invisible.
“I’ve got a passion and I call it the ‘two coffee cup ministry’. Which is if when you see someone in need, remember they’re a person. If you’re going to buy someone a cup of coffee and a sandwich, buy two cups of coffee and sit down with them. A little conversation goes a long way, it makes a difference.
“So we are all about befriending anybody who needs befriending – it doesn’t matter who you are, what age you are, what gender you are, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, the door is always open.”
Teresa says she sees a massive need in Liskeard, but as she finishes her first week, she won’t be rushing into anything: she intends to spend a lot of time meeting people, listening and getting to know the town before she makes a plan for her ministry.
“I need to be out and about talking to people, and I’ll try and get a sense, spiritually of what is needed, and pray about it,” she says.
“I also need to get to know what other agencies are doing – there wouldn’t be any point in doing something if someone else is already doing it really well, it would be a waste of resources. We just need to see which part of the jigsaw puzzle we are, and fit into it.”
She says she’d like to develop the existing Wednesday coffee mornings but doesn’t want to encroach on the trade of cafes in the town. She envisages potentially hosting a kind of hub at the Citadel where people can drop in to get support from a range of services, and she would like to launch a new ‘Freedom Friday’ worship.
“A lot of people who have been in addiction might do the 12-step programme and part of that is to find your higher power. And some might find that higher power in Christianity, and then not feel they have anywhere to go.
“Our approach in Stroud was come along as you are, it doesn’t matter what you believe. You need to feel you belong somewhere.”
She also emphasises that the Salvation Army is about being as accessible as possible to people and so “it’s not about pulling people into a building, but going out and meeting people in the street”.
Teresa says the Salvationists in Liskeard, many of whom have been part of the church for a long time, are really lovely, kind people. She also has high praise for Dora, who runs the charity shop, and says that more volunteers are needed so that the shop can continue to be the first port of call and carry out valuable outreach at times when the community centre building opposite is shut.
Activities at the Salvation Army Church and Community Centre currently include Sunday Worship (10.30am), Coffee Mornings (Wednesdays 10am to 12.30pm) and Community Brass Band practice (Wednesdays 7pm).
To find out more call 01579 340550.