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.