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 - signTubestation 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

says Henry.

Tubestation - rampThe 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.

Messy Church goes to the beach

Messy church goes to the beach and makes history as two different fresh expressions meet up. Janet Tredrea reports.

Tubestation, a fresh expression of church in Polzeath, Cornwall opened its doors to nearby Wadebridge’s regular Messy Church at the end of July.

Messy Church at the beach - villageDuring the winter months, parents, carers and children from Wadebridge have been attending Messy Church – a new form of church for families held in the local primary school. When the weather was really fine, attendance numbers dropped, so it was decided to take Messy Church to the beach… where the people were.

The session, Bible Seasides, began with funky drink and biscuits before everyone went down to the beach to construct a sand village made of eastern shape houses of 2000 years ago. The weather was definitely not brilliant, but the builders seemed unperturbed! We left a sign for those visiting the beach later that we had constructed Beach Street, Galilee.

On the return to Tubestation, a dozen or so crafts were on offer all with a Bible Seaside theme. One of the most popular was Lim-PETS, God’s creatures with our own adaptations!

eMessy Church at the beach - paintingAs the crafts finished, so the worship began with musicians from Tubestation and Rev Jerry with Buzz the albatross (all the way from America!) with their message based on the house that was built on the rock. Hot dogs were served from the outdoor BBQ and the fun and the fellowship was complete. A great chance for two fresh expressions to work together.

Summer nights

When ordained pioneer minister, Ben Norton, was watching the tv one night he suddenly had an idea. Before long he got hold of Sam Foster a fellow pioneer in the next town to see if they could do something in their area together. They were soon taken aback by the amazing response. Ben takes up the story

The idea came from watching an episode of Top Gear when the presenters all travelled to Asia on mopeds and stopped over somewhere taking in the sights. One of the things that amazed them was the sight of hundreds of floating tea-lights being sent off down a river at night. The visual impact of this was amazing and even made the all-male macho petrol-heads stop and think.

I pondered what doing something similar might provoke in members of the public here on the Yorkshire coast. So Sam Foster (pioneer minister) and Shena Woolridge (pioneer minister and Church Army evangelist respectively, both based in Scarborough) and a handful of others set off to light up a section of the local beach and see if it would invoke something of the spiritual in passers by.

We were not too sure how it would be received, but were totally blown away. Two hundred people stopped and looked between 7:30 and 11:30pm.

Some lit a candle and walked off, some stood and chatted, some asked for prayer, and some told of their own spiritual journeys. But one thing I noticed throughout the night was that those who chose to take part in whatever way, ended up leaving the space in a different direction. For those who were walking on the beach they would have continued walking on the beach if we had not been there but they walked off up on to the pathway and vice versa.

I wondered if this was a symbol of what was happening spiritually for people? This event was maybe not life-changing, in the sense of making a 'u-turn'; but for many it was more of a 'tilt of the axis', for some ever so slightly. That night there was an encounter that maybe changed something, somewhere in their journey.

We are hopefully going to do some more summer nights up and down the East Coast and when we do, more info will appear on the St Maxs website and my blog.