Make your way to Exeter Cathedral on a Friday night and you may be surprised at what you'll find in this ancient place of worship. Near its medieval entrance, the weekly barbecue provides food for visitors – whether they're cathedral regulars, the homeless or the downright curious. Inside, and the 'congregation' for Nightchurch is meeting in small chapels and spaces throughout the building.
Steve Jones, as Pioneer Team Co-ordinator and a former youth advisor for the diocese, talks of his hopes for the initiative's future.
We meet on Fridays from 8pm to 10.30pm, and our initial aim was to help those born after 1960, as Generation X and Y, to find a way back to God. But of course it is open to all and if it grows, Nightchurch will become another part of the cathedral community.
Nightchurch launched in 2007 and is a joint partnership between the Diocese of Exeter and the Cathedral. It is being funded by them, and a grant from the St Luke's Foundation, for the first three years. It's all a bit of an adventure.
I have no real idea what it will look like in a few years' time except that I would see it as more of an organism than an organisation. Our values, or DNA, are to be an inclusive community with Christ at its heart; and to learn how to be generous with hospitality, creative in spirituality and passionate about justice. We'd love to share that common DNA but express it in our lives and communities in unique and creative ways.
Lots of us involved in Nightchurch are connected in some way to a small group meeting in homes, pubs, places of work, or sometimes a chapel in the cathedral. That's what we call Go Small.
Friday nights see us get together to explore social justice, enjoy the creative arts in poetry or music, and become involved in discussion, prayer and meditation and lots of other things.
Every two to three months or so we bring together everyone involved in Nightchurch and their friends and have a bigger than normal Friday night in the cathedral. That's Go Large.
In a way there's nothing new about Nightchurch, because – borrowing the idea of the ancient Minster Model – a cathedral is a gathering place for the Christian family.
Our leaders have regular gatherings for training, support and looking at new monastic practices. We also look at being a 'missional movement', namely a leadership community that grows each month with new leaders; and we are using a contextualised mission shaped ministry course as the way in for those people.
Nightchurch has become a very special place for many, and May 2010 will mark our first wedding! David Morgan and Erika Davies met each other at Nightchurch, and the couple have decided to get married by special licence at an evening service in the Cathedral. They will be surrounded by family, friends, Nightchurch regulars – and anyone else who happens to be visiting the Cathedral at the time.
David is manager of the Big Issue Exeter office so he expects to see some of the organisation's street vendors at the celebration, and he couldn't be happier about it. He was a volunteer with the homeless when he came to Nightchurch and then realised that his calling was to make it his full-time work.
Nightchurch has changed David and Erika's lives, and our hope is that the work will touch many, many more. That really would be an adventure.