David Bird gives an update on the ministry of Street Church, reaching homeless and vulnerable people in Northampton.
Things are progressing well and numbers continue to be very positive. It is always hard to know what impact is being made by Street Church but, like many church things, the regular attendance is often an indicator of people's commitment and certainly people are coming along regularly.
Sadly, because of cuts in funding, we have lost the services of our part-time worker and this has meant more pressure on the volunteer leaders of Street Church. Generally, we have a good volunteer base but getting regular volunteer leaders with the necessary skills and adaptability is not always easy.
Firstly, it was agreed in the autumn to try to have a more focused input with prayer and worship and this has been achieved by changing the format slightly. When people arrive there is food, conversation and music; then after about an hour there is an opportunity for input - usually in the way of a short talk or video followed by discussion. Whereas previously this time went on in something of a melee of activity, we now close down the refreshments. This means that if people do not want to stay they have an opportunity to disappear while those who do stay really want to listen.
During this time we offer prayer as well as conversation. This has been a positive move, really helpful in making the worship focus much more marked and, although it is not like a normal church service, there is more of a sense of the community of God gathering with some focus to pray and to be together.
Another factor we have had to deal with is a number of Eastern European people coming along with very little command of English. This provoked some antagonism from those who had been there for a longer period of time. We have managed to find someone who can translate, which has been a help, but this has certainly caused some problems for us.
We hope to be able to register as a charity in our own right in the near future as we have been turned down for a number of grants because - as the Vicar of a large church (St Giles, Northampton) applying for money - it is often considered that we have plenty. Even though Street Church is a separate organisation, people do not see it that way necessarily.