STAFF and volunteers at a church in Littlemore are preparing for their 15th annual community Christmas lunch.

The traditional lunch is organised by St Mary and St Nicholas Church, and takes place at nearby John Henry Newman Academy, from 1pm to 4pm on Christmas Day.

The number of guests has grown steadily and about 120 people are expected to attend this year.

Vicar of the church, Rev Margreet Armitstead, said: “The event is open to absolutely anyone, as long as they book ahead so we know how many to cater for.

“It is a big friendly gathering, people coming together to share a meal and enjoy each other’s company.

“Christmas can be a highly pressured time of year but people have such good memories of the lunch that they come back year after year.”

Volunteer Philippa Foster, who lives off Cowley Road, said supermarkets were being asked to donate food for the festive lunch.

She added: “Some of the people who come along go to the church but some don’t – it’s something for the whole community.

“That’s very much Margreet’s vision – offering a warm welcome to everyone.

“We try to get food donated and match people up with drivers and transport so people can get here.

“We do get whole families coming along – a meal for a family of five can be expensive.

“This isn’t just for people who are on their own and it’s always a fun occasion.”

The church is asking for a voluntary contribution of £2.50 per adult and £1.50 per child, with everyone enjoying a traditional Christmas lunch and associated activities including bingo, a raffle and a visit from Father Christmas.

The event is run entirely by volunteers.

Cardinal Newman built St Mary and St Nicholas Church, in Sandford Road, Littlemore, while still an Anglican in 1835. He converted to Catholicism in 1845.

Pope Francis has now backed the canonisation of the Cardinal.

The leading figure of the Roman Catholic revival is expected to be formally declared a saint next year.

It follows the Vatican’s endorsement of a miracle said to have happened as a result of prayers to Cardinal Newman. The miracle involved the recovery of a pregnant Chicago woman.

A £600,000 renovation scheme is now under way at the church.

Anyone interested in attending the lunch or volunteering can contact Rev Margreet Armitstead on 01865 748003 or email