Originally set up four years ago at the heart of Polzeath's surfing community, Tubestation today welcomes visitors from around the world. Henry Cavender and Kris Lannen are now the project’s co-directors and Pioneer Mission Leaders with the Methodist Church's VentureFX initiative to develop mission among young adults in coastal Cornwall. Henry discusses Tubestation’s development.
Surf culture is part of the regional identity in Cornwall, and as such it is a hugely influential part of the lives of people who live in this peninsular county, both surfers and non-surfers. Everybody is related to, knows, or aspires to be, a surfer. As a result, in using all its resources to wholeheartedly serve a local surf culture, Tubestation has also served and influenced a wide cross section of the Cornish community.
Furthermore because of Polzeath's attraction as a holiday destination, the influence has been wider still. The reputation of the work of Tubestation returns home with many thousands of holidaying people from right across the UK and Ireland, and high-profile media attention has added significantly to this reputation.
Although clearly Christian in its ethos and make-up, Tubestation regularly serves a far broader demographic, as its open and accepting nature appeals to people of many other faiths and worldviews – a feature which particularly resonates with the travelling surfer.
A Christian faith community has formed of young and old, surfer and non-surfer, local and visitor. This community comes together each Sunday, and during school holidays it can often swell far beyond the capacity of the Polzeath premises, with visitors making up 80% of the numbers served by a core local congregation of 40-50.This gives the meetings a unique dynamic.
For this reason it has developed the persona of a monastic community; an eclectic mix of people growing together and serving an extended family of travelling pilgrims on their various journeys. These meetings are a rich mix of styles and tastes and even theological perspectives, which encourage all to a healthy appreciation of diversity but also cement the Christian essentials that unite us.
The church (the faith community that meets on a Sunday and at other times) and the Tubestation (the mission) are separate but inextricably linked, and interestingly the church has risen out of the mission – not the other way around.
The 'church' experience here has actually developed at a far steadier pace than it could have done because we took the decision early on to work with the established Methodist Church 'plan', rather than go for something completely separate from the outset. This has made for slow progress in many respects, but ultimately has been the right decision because it has lead to a diverse church (all-age, not just surfers) which the Methodist Church can still feel ownership of. In future we may decide to do this differently for the sake of efficiency, as pulling the 'traditional' along with us has been pretty tough going.
We have tried from the outset to involve the whole of the local community in the development of Tubestation, encouraging local people to see the opportunities for themselves so that the services we provide are ones they actually want!
We're in this for the long-haul, to encourage real relationships and friendships to grow, ones that God might use. The whole environment at Tubestation, with faith, extreme sports, arts, lifestyle and cafe culture all interlinking is a really rich and exciting mix which people are free to experience at whatever level they choose.
As part of this we invested in an indoor mini-ramp for skaters, it's just over a metre high, about three metres wide, and over six metres long. The Tubestation ramp is available to hire from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. If you are a resident of north Cornwall, there is no charge to use it, otherwise it costs £2.50 for the day.
The result is an environment which is comfortable for people because they are not being force-fed a religious agenda, but it's presented in creative ways that regularly provoke interest and conversation. Our job is simply to be creative, to serve people, to pray lots, to sow seeds in conversation when called to, and to be here when God draws people.
Next steps: the team now includes a full-time pastoral person. Revd Dave Matthews, from Christian Surfers UK, is heading up the discipling and care for the growing church which also helps free up the time for Kris and myself to keep looking outwards rather than inwards. His home is also used as the base for Substation, a smaller weekly gathering of Tubestation's spiritual community to explore the Word of God together. We're also considering the possibility of setting up a second Tubestation a little further down the coast.
The principles that underpin Tubestation are really nothing special and can be applied to any Christian community that wants to love and serve its neighbours. Lots of people visit Tubestation expecting to find something earth-shattering and what they actually find is a bunch of ordinary bods simply using what we have to serve the people around us, and having fun doing it. The only earth-shattering thing about it is that Jesus reminded us to 'love our neighbour' – and that is revolutionary!
Emma Garrow reports on the latest from tubestation, a fresh expression for surfers.
A chapel on a Cornish beach is becoming the place to be for both visiting surfers and locals. The Methodist chapel is at the heart of a venture that opened in summer 2007 in Polzeath, 'a bridge between surfing and the gospel', known as tubestation. A church, an internet café, a community centre, tubestation is many things and has a vision to be many more.
Tubestation is run by project directors and keen surfers, Henry Cavender and Kris Lannen. Henry says,
Surfers tend to be searchers. They travel the world looking for the ultimate ride, a tube, where the wave bowls over your head. It's the most coveted surfing experience, and has been described as a religious experience. Everything slows down, sound changes, it's an amazing thing.
While Henry and Kris are familiar with the wonder of surfing, their ambition is to convey to surfers that 'the ultimate ride can only be found in Jesus'. Henry explains,
These are people who are immersed in the wonder of creation. Our job is to point out where they're already experiencing God.
Key moments in tubestation's life so far have touched on that sense of wonder, such as a prayer vigil held in the sea at night. Participants stood up to their chests in the water, holding torches aloft, 'connecting to a different side of God'.
But while tubestation enables occasions of transcendence for surfer seekers, it also plugs into its local community. A key element of the original vision was to provide Polzeath's 600 residents with a sense of ownership. A community consultation as the project was developed revealed the need for 'a warm safe place to enjoy and meet one another', especially in the winter months.
We see it as key to work with and serve the residents, we're here to build long term relationships
The first summer was busy catering for surfers and tourists, but the winter is still seeing visitors to tubestation, locals coming in for coffee, young people using the skate ramp, taking advantage of what tubestation is offering: 'a generous space which reflects God'.
Alongside this community venture is a core congregation of between 40 and 50 people, which meets on a Sunday morning. This includes members of the original congregation which was attending the chapel when the concept of tubestation came into being. The service, Henry explains, is
run by surfers, is very laid back, feels very home made – it’s real.
Plans are in mind to extend the chapel with more community areas and galleries for the encouragement of the creative arts. A project is under discussion to enable underprivileged young people to 'live life to the full' by encountering extreme sports. There is even a hope that the work of tubestation in serving both the local community and the worldwide surfing community, might extend to supporting surf destinations in the developing world.
The future for tubestation looks bold, both in Polzeath and in its connections with the worldwide surfing community.