Surf and fairly-traded coffee, Wesleyan history and cherry bakewells or a massive indoor skatepark with cans of drinks from a vending machine … I encountered three amazing ways of sharing the Good News of Jesus yesterday. On the face of it they were different, but their heart was identical.
I’ve had the privilege this week of being able to share some of Cornwall’s delights with Steve Swann, who’s coming to minister in the county in September. Yesterday was a day for travelling to three projects where the Methodist Church is leading the way.
The first stop was at The Tubestation in Polzeath. I’ve got to declare an interest as the “midwife”, I suppose you would say, who led the team which gave birth to this surf church. It’s always a joy to go back and relax in the chilled-out vibe of a place which I believe to be the most special church on the planet. As Steve, John (who came with us) and I chatted to Dave Matthews – the project’s spiritual director – I caught again the depth of love for community which underpins everything about Tubestation.
The latest development is Zeath Gallery, with paintings by members of the church community and others (above is Right by Ness Lannen), and some astonishing woodwork, including a pine cone which weighs a ton and a table which you would need to build a home around!!
In sheer numbers Tubestation is an astonishing success. From a congregation of six in 2001 to an Easter service with 300 now is an amazing God-blessed journey, but it’s the constant search for new ways of blessing the community that is the hallmark of its mission: not “are you saved” but “come and rest”.
From there we went to the tiny hamlet of Trewint and Wesley’s Cottage where John Wesley and his preachers were offered hospitality by a poor stonemason and his wife in the 1740s and later. As a result they preached and kept coming back and sharing the Gospel. Digory and Elizabeth Isbell, the couple, were so impressed by Wesley, that they provided two extra rooms for him to stay and preach. The cottage has been restored and one room is believed to be the smallest Methodist preaching place in the world.
When we arrived, John Hogarth the warden began by offering tea and cakes and then told us the history of the cottage, the “prophet’s chamber” built for Wesley and his preachers, and of the increased visitor numbers. Wesley Cottage is one of the places in Cornwall where heritage is being used to enhance 21st Century mission rather than simply look back to what used to be.
Our final visit was to an industrial estate at Launceston where the Methodist Circuit has backed The Unit, a massive indoor skatepark. We spoke to Sam and Simon, who live surrounded by noise and the chaos of skaters and bikers as they host this brilliant outreach initiative. The condition of use is that the youngsters have to stop for a 10-minute Bible study, delivered in down-to-earth language and using the Skater’s Bible – the New Testament in a modern translation. It was punchy, open and began with a clear welcome to everyone: we’re happy to have you here, God’s happy to see you here, enjoy being in this place.
As we drove home – thrilled with what we’d seen – the reflection wasn’t so much about the contemporary nature; though that was great at The Tubestation and The Unit. Because what held all three places together was the welcome they offered.
Surf and fairly-traded coffee, Wesleyan history and cherry bakewells or a massive indoor skatepark with cans of drinks from a vending machine … God is in the detail, his smile is in the handshake and the invitation to be yourself in his presence whether the place echoes with 250 years of preaching and prayer or a few months of acrylic paint and a hard hat.