Night Church was created from the spark of an idea to create a sacred space where people could experience God’s love and peace. The sad truth is that our nation is full of people who have rejected religion and, in doing so, assume that God is fictitious, irrelevant or even malicious. Generation Y, grappling with a multitude of possible ‘truths’ and in a world where every experience is equally valid, base their understanding of the world on their experience. And so Night Church could not be a space to tell people of God but to show them.
An answer to prayer
Night Church originated from a team based at The Light Project, Chester who wanted to explore how to connect faith with people who had little or no understanding of the Christian faith. The team felt that there was a real need to be a presence in the night-time economy, where Street Pastors were already engaging. The team prayed consistently, seeking God’s heart to understand where He was already at work preparing the way for this new expression of His love. After a year of careful listening for His direction, developing the vision and values of this new project the team was offered the use of the beautiful, St. Peter’s Church; the oldest church inside the city walls. St Peters is situated in the heart of Chester exactly where the clubbers and pubbers congregate. This historic building, steeped in prayer for almost 1000 years holds an atmosphere of worship; a testament to lives lived faithfully for God recorded in the stained glass windows, altar and the very stones of the building.
Churches working together
From the outset it was clear that this should not simply be the work of one church, narrowly recruiting new converts but the work of Christians from many churches of differing denominations across the city. A demonstration of God’s unity and creativity above individual differences. A place where grace, peace, faith, hope and love are part of the fabric both of the place and the people serving there. At the heart of this community is a deep desire to worship and honour God. This is present in sung worship, in prayer and in the hearts of the team as they serve our visitors.
Welcomed by the City
Initially Night Church was set up in Dec 2010 as a 6 month pilot, running once a month with a team of 10 Light Project students and volunteers from 10 different churches. At the end of the pilot questionnaires were completed by 60 visitors and feedback solicited from the volunteers. The overwhelming response was gratitude and delight. Visitors reported “here, everybody cares and understands” and “this is something different, such a friendly and non-judgemental place”. And so the project was continued, rising from once a month to twice a month in 2012.
Night Church offers something different. Instead of telling people about God we invite them to meet Him and experience His peace. Instead of forcing our views on people we invite them to express their views. Night Church gives people space. Space to relax, space to process their pain and space to realise that they are valuable and loved. That there is one place that they can let their masks slip and experience God’s peace. Most of them can’t articulate this; they simply tell us that Night Church is ‘different’, or ‘special’, or that they ‘feel something’.
Growing and developing
In September 2014 Night Church grew up and became a stand-alone charity. Operating independently of the Light Project but maintaining the same people within the leadership team. It has no paid staff and continues to be run by volunteers from churches across the city. In June 2016, the charity was formally registered as charity number 1167728. So far about 15,000 people have visited Night Church. Many return, bringing friends to share in something that they do not dare to name as God. We continue to focus our hearts on Him, attempt to answer their questions and pray for God to reveal Himself to them.
This is not the end of our story, we would love to open every Saturday; we continue to pray for new volunteers to help write the next chapter…