Loving and serving: Night Shift

Night Shift - steps

This story illustrates the principles of Loving and serving in the Guide.

Hereford Baptist Church sits in the centre of Hereford between the clubs and pubs that attract people from the surrounding villages at night.

Church members would arrive on Sundays to find the church forecourt covered in litter. For deacon Mair Granthier and her husband, Brian, this was not a problem to be left festering. Asking around, they gathered a team to spend their Saturday nights sitting in the church foyer, venturing out every half hour to clear up the mess.

This is how the members of Hereford Baptist Church got to know the clubbers of Hereford city. Seeing that the church was open, passers-by asked the litter pickers if they could use the toilets.

Church members and clubbers began chatting with one another, sometimes about church. As the weather grew colder, the warmth of the church foyer became an increasingly attractive place for those spilling out of the clubs.

The Granthiers asked the church whether they might also serve tea and coffee from the kitchen in the foyer.

They put it to the church that we should see where God takes us,

explains youth pastor at Hereford Baptist, Claire Hailwood.

'No two evenings are the same; it depends who comes and what's on their mind'

The church seized hold of this and asked for volunteers. The church opened and people came in. We never advertised, we were just open, and people came and brought their mates.

'Night Shift' has been open since 2002, with Claire in post since 2004. Around 200 people now visit Hereford Baptist Church every Saturday night between the hours of eleven and three for the warmth of the foyer, a free hot drink and a place to talk.

The main body of the church is open for anyone who wants to sit quietly or pray with one another. Booze and smoking are forbidden, but fast food is allowed.

There's something quite special for some people about sitting in church,

says Claire.

No two evenings are the same. It depends who comes and what's on their mind.

Christmas Eve and Holy Saturday see the church open for Nightshift services with 'Carol-oke' or a mutual exchange of ideas about Christmas and Easter.

Claire tells the story of the first visitor to Night Shift in four years to be abusive. Using the radio link to the clubs and police, church members managed the situation. The following morning the same man arrived at church to apologise, even helping to move chairs.

He recognised something about this place,

Claire believes. This experience reflects the deeper engagement with faith that those behind Night Shift feel it can offer.

A lot of us feel like this is a stage in the journey and we are asking how to develop, how to make initial contact become meaningful discipleship. It's difficult, because people do come in drunk. But at the moment, this is where people are at.

Night Shift began simply because the church was there, and it continues in a spirit of being with and for those who come.