A Kirk initiative started in East Lothian has raised more than £500,000 to tackle HIV and AIDS by serving hundreds of thousands of bowls of soup.
Inspired by members of Gladsmuir linked with Longniddry Church, volunteers in Church of Scotland congregations across the UK and further afield are using their culinary skills to change the world for people living with the virus “one spoonful at a time”.
And Souper Sunday, part of the Church’s groundbreaking HIV Programme, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month.
It is a special act of worship led by church elders to raise awareness of the many issues around HIV, a virus that weakens the ability to fight everyday infections and disease, followed by a simple lunch of delicious hot soup and bread.
Diners donate what they can to the HIV Programme, which was established by an act of the General Assembly in 2002 and currently supports 17 projects in 13 different countries including Scotland.
The Rev Dr Robin Hill, minister of Gladsmuir linked with Longniddry Church, said: “When the Presbytery of Lothian launched Souper Sunday in January 2009, we reckoned it was nothing more than a local initiative.
“Quickly it proved to be a winner that could be rolled out across the whole country and beyond.”
A dab hand in the kitchen, Dr Hill is also one of the founding members of the Heart and Soul Swing Band which performs concerts to raise money for the HIV Programme.
He added: “As convener of the Church of Scotland HIV Programme, I was delighted to see the uptake of the event in its early days, with not only funds but also awareness being raised. How appropriate it is that the £500,000 mark should have been reached in the very month of Souper Sunday’s tenth anniversary?
“A real cause for celebration.”
Carol Finlay of the World Mission Council, which runs the Souper Sunday project on behalf of the Kirk, said: “No one should die of AIDS but we know a million people a year still do.
“The tools to end the epidemic in our lifetime are available but not yet accessible to all.
“The Church of Scotland HIV Programme supports our partners in Scotland and around the world as they continue to work towards an AIDS free generation.
“With much hard work on the part of soup-makers across the land, Souper Sunday has done so much to support HIV-related partner projects all around the world, from Scotland to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
“Church members should be rightfully very proud of this achievement through the act of simply serving bowls of soup.
“We are changing the world – one spoonful at a time.”
Official statistics from 2017 suggest that 101,600 people are living with HIV in the UK and globally, an estimated 36.7 million people have the virus.
Through the HIV Programme, church congregations are provided with educational materials to help raise awareness about the impact of the virus at home and abroad.