DEACONS DISCUSS (1): town centre ministry

I have permission to reproduce a recent Whatsapp discussion between deacons involved in this vital ministry.  I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.  It is conversations like these that show how crucial a deacon’s contribution is.

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Deacon David Bean (Southwell diocese)

So, 8 months into curacy yr 1 I am thinking about yr 2. The theory is that I spend an increasing proportion of my time outside of church (30% of my time now, rising to 50% then 70%).

My curacy title includes “town centre mission” – but the parish doesn’t include that area (long story). I have a clear sense of town centre ministry in this context looking like chaplaincy. What do others think?

Are any of you involved in such chaplaincy? Would anyone like to share ideas, resources, etc?

Prayers would be appreciated as I try and scope this out.

Deacon Alison Handcock, Bath and Wells:

I am not involved in this but I know Taunton have a town chaplaincy team that works really well. They are happy to speak to people about it or host a visit. Chaplains commit to visiting shops, businesses etc and recently set up a chaplaincy to serve the train station. Could Street pastors possibly be a model for some kind of daytime chaplaincy; listening to people in the town centre alongside a coffee drop-in?

Deacon Paul Hollingworth, Winchester

Like it Alison.
I’ve just started a project to map current volunteer, charities and churches support working in the town. The aim is to bring them together using the Abbey (Romsey Abbey) as a focal point as it is already a centre for the town community. This is to see if we can share volunteer resources so to best channel the effort instead of each organisation doing their own thing and struggling to get enough workers. This is all under the auspice of pastoral care in the community. Main focus being disadvantaged, bereaved, mental health etc.

Deacon Cheryl Belding, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich:

Me too Alison. I am also trying things along that line. I go into our town and visit as many places as I can even as a shop browser I h ave people talking to me. Cafes are a great place. We have a day centre which I go to once a week. I wish you well it is a slow process though. I know of one retired priest with PTO who thinks I do not do very much. Then when I am out for any reason I am touched by the amount of people who speak to me. Mission outside a church isn’t always as visual as in a church but I believe it spreads far and wide to places we may never know it has reached. Every prayer and blessing

Paul:

Forgot one thing we also do is hold a mental health drop in coffee afternoon each Monday in our local Cafe Nero who let us use part of their upper floor.

Deacon Gill Kimber, Exeter

Well said, Cheryl. I’m always saying to our pioneers here ‘don’t expect anything to happen soon!’ What matters is that slow building of recognition, relationships and trust which are the basis for anything else. It can be uphill work with minuscule steps forward and sometimes heartbreaking as well as exhilarating. But I believe it’s the front line of the church’s mission so may the Holy Spirit put wind in ALL your sails! ⛵

Cheryl:

Thank you Gill. It can also feel a little isolating so the encouragement, ideas, support and all the things that come from this link are so welcome and valued.

Deacon Dave Hobman, York:

I have been “working the streets” here in York for around four years now. Initially involved with the homeless etc but now also the lonely elderly. This usually takes the form of meeting them at coffee shops and getting them to sit with others who are similarly lonely. This is a slow process but now have two groups of around twelve people each who meet regularly for coffee and chat, one coffee shop even provided a free Christmas party for them! I have also become chaplain to the local over 60s drop in cafe, collecting dishes and sitting talking to anyone who wants to. They have also got me to do a blessing every Monday morning to include the facilities and volunteers. We started a prayer box and after a slow start this is starting to get regular offerings
Like others I am often stopped in the streets by people who want to talk.
It all takes time (literally sometimes taking me a couple of hours to walk across the centre of York) but also a long period of time to develop the ministry.
All I can say to sum up is – I am always busy and always feel that Christ is beside me as I listen to the problems people bring to me from their private lives
City centre chaplaincy is hard work and time consuming but spiritually uplifting, although you definitely need a spiritual adviser at time to off load to!

Cheryl:

So good to hear all that Dave. I feel energised by the chance encounters even if my feet do not agree. ! Keep walking 🐾👟

Dave Hobman:

Glad to pass this on Gill, I am a great advocate for street ministry and see it as one of the churches’ major input to the average person who does not necessarily attend church or even believe.
I have a very old, but comfortable pair of boots. I also go for comfort clothing wise, being in engineering for most of my life I am usually found in jeans, denim shirt, old hat and of course dog collar. This form of dress appears to work well as it allows me to meet people at their level rather than being looked up as “the vicar”

Alison:

This is all so encouraging! I have recently been walking our local estate in the mornings (initially to keep myself sane!) but I am amazed and encouraged by what could be considered as God ‘interruptions’!

David Bean:

Such encouraging comments! I have started prayer walking a local estate, too… Its been a transformative experience!

I wonder if any of you who are involved in estates or town centre ministry might be prepared to share relevant excerpts from role descriptions with me?

(If you’d like to contact David please ask for his contact details via the comments or an email to deacons@tutanota.com as I don’t want to publicise his personal email here and will send it privately – Ed.)

Dave Hobman:

I am in London at the moment going to talk with one of the London livery companies with the hope of getting some funding for the homeless in York. I also have to eat a big lunch and drink some decent wine in the process. Obviously not in jeans today!!

The two Davids:

David Bean Southwell: Dave, could I come and meet with you in York? Its only a short hop from where I am in Retford.
Dave Hobman York: No problem, let me have some dates and we can arrange a meeting.

(Deacons cross-fertilising ideas !  Love it!)

Juliet Gosling-Brown, Bath and Wells, ordinand:

I can relate to this kind of ministry – I wrote in my Sarum interim term report that I feel more called to be outside a church building than inside…was worried to write this but I think your town centre/street ministry confirms that I should.🙏thank you.

If anybody would like to sign up to the GoDeacons Whatsapp group and join the conversations, please email me at deacons@tutanota.com with your mobile number.

 

 

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