Night Church Chester was launched in December 2010 by The Light Project. In September 2015 Night Church separated from the Light Project and became a small charity. Then in June 2016, as resources exceeded £5000, we registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation with the Charities Commission.
Who we are: Structure, Governance & Management
Night Church Chester is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) governed by Constitution. Trustees are appointed by serving trustees, in accord with the Constitution and good practice set out in the Charities Commission.
This year, members of the trustee body have attended training in Good Governance and Social Media.
Night Church Chester has a very close working relationship wit St Peter’s Church and the Project Leader attends their PCC Meetings. We also pay for 3 hours time per week from their Administrator which is much valued.
The significant step forward this year has been the agreeing and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with St Peter’s. This sets out the basis of our working relationship with them: what they provide for us and what we pay them.
The structure of Night Church Chester is the Board of Trustees: a Project Leader and a Leadership Team. This year we have clarified what Trustees are responsible for and how governance is exercised. The Project Leader, Louise Annison, works with the Leadership Team to operate Night Church at St Peter’s Church two Saturday Nights a month, apart from August. The Treasurer, Nev Kite, is a member of the Leadership Team and both he and Louise Annison prepare reports for Trustees and attend Trustee Meetings
The Trustees have had regard to the Charity Commission’s guidance on public benefit. The Charity does not make grants and a policy on social investment including programme related investment is not applicable. The Charity does not have sufficient funds to merit an investment policy. Funds are held in a Lloyds Bank current account.
Alongside our grassroots nature and independence, we believe in the importance of networks and collaboration. We network locally with Churches in Chester, with Street Pastors; with Chester West and Chester Council, with the Police and with other organisations involved in the night time economy.
What we do and why: Objectives and Activities (see our website nightchurchchester.org)
The objective of the CIO is to advance the Christian faith for the benefit of the public through the operation and running of a night time Church, in accordance with the statement of faith.
(from our Constitution)
This objective is developed through our values (see our website); and through our procedures, especially in our Main Policy Document. Our objectives are summarised in our Mission Statement:
“Night Church a sacred space in the centre of Chester open to everyone: where anyone in town on a Saturday night can experience something of God’s presence.
We welcome people of all faiths and none. We are seed sowers, participants in God’s mission; trusting that God has planned our visitors’ next step, knowing that we are not likely to see it”
We open Night Church at St Peter’s Church, Chester two Saturday nights a month , apart from August, from 9.30 pm until 2.00 am on the Sunday. When our night for opening is on a Race Day we open from [6.30 pm until 11.30pm]. We have an illuminated sign above the front door with the words “Night Church” and we arrange tables inside for coffee /tea; have a prayer corner where visitors can light a candle and pray; there is Christian music, usually live music with song, and we have subdued lighting in the Church. We have a minimum of 2 leaders and 8 volunteers each night along with musicians and a prayer team. One or two of the volunteers each night have had first aid training. Our objective is to ensure that a volunteer need only be at Night Church once a month.
In December 2016 we had 24 volunteers and by October 2017 this had risen to 35. We have Trustee Liability and Employer and Public and Products Liability Insurance from Unity Insurance Services. Buildings insurance is covered by St Peter’s Church.
We begin each evening by setting up facilities for Night Church and then having a time of preparation when volunteers are reminded of safety procedures, safeguarding and of possible risks. We then have a time of quietness, prayer and introductory words. This prepares us for Night Church.
Volunteers work in the kitchen, stand at the door to greet people passing by and invite them into Night Church. Other volunteers are at various places inside the Church. We are a place of hospitality and visitors are free to have a drink or sit quietly listening to music or chatting among themselves. Volunteers are always available to help or for conversations on topics raised by the visitor. There are always amazing conversations – see below for details. Occasionally we have a difficult visitor, usually drink related and we help as necessary, liaising with the police if needed.
Music is a key part of the evening and now, most evenings, we have live music with singing which is relayed to the outside door. We struggled with this earlier in the year but a member of the Leadership Team is responsible for this key aspect and has worked hard to get more volunteers to play.
Our policies and training (including values, safeguarding, dealing with incidents, risk assessment, and complaints policy which is on our website), equip volunteers for ensuring a safe and friendly environment.
We are careful to make it clear that we are rooted gently and deeply in the Christian spiritual tradition, but offer a safe space where people of any faith or none can feel completely at ease.
In our Strategic Plan we aim to open more Saturday nights a month. This largely depends on having more volunteers and work is in hand to achieve this.
Our success: Achievements and Performance including Public Benefit
It is quite difficult to measure the achievements and performance of Night Church as its impact on individuals and the night time economy of Chester is not immediately apparent. We have tried to make measurements of uptake of our services in the usual way – numbers of visitors etc – but this is not the full story.
Over the year November 2016 – October 2017 Night Church has been open on 22 occasions and we have had 2419 visitors. This ranges from 171 to 75 per night and seems to depend on the weather as much as anything else.
We have tried to find other ways to measure achievement and we use these simple methods to collect statistics:-
Prayer Requests. Visitors who enter into conversation with volunteers are invited to leave a request for prayer on our prayer board. A member of the team then takes these with them and commits to pray for each request. Numbers vary wildly but there is an average of 9 requests each evening.
Candles. Visitors are invited to light a candle as a symbol of a prayer for a person or situation that they want to lift to God. This is done respectfully, and volunteers stand by to facilitate this. An average of 24 candles are lit each Night Church representing some kind of response to the opportunities Night Church offers to the public.
Donations by members of the public. Night Church does not solicit donations from visitors but we are often asked if a donation can be made. This is always politely declined in an initial response and we explain that we are not seeking public financial support. If visitors persist we accept donations in cash and this figure is entered in the financial report below.
However we find that these dry statistics do not really reflect the kind of service we are trying to offer. This is best described in the stories that volunteers recount of their encounters with visitors. A few examples are given below which will give a taste.
- A young woman came into Night Church quite distressed. She lit a candle silently and then sat down with a volunteer. Eventually she said that she was upset because her father had died, a little while ago, and there was something important she wished she had told him. After sharing this she left but later spoke with another volunteer saying that she felt much better having shared her problem in a helpful atmosphere.
- A couple of ladies who went in when I was on the door, came out and said to me the “they had never been in a building anywhere, where they felt immediately at peace, when they entered”.
- One Night Church a lady was standing by the door waiting for her friend who was lighting a candle inside. We got chatting and she said that she was very concerned about her daughter who was suffering with anxiety and depression. I asked if I could pray and she said “I don’t pray” so I said that was ok, but I did and she agreed that would be ok. As I was praying she burst into tears saying “thank you, thank you”.
- I was on the door when I met four men who I invited into church. I later joined them at a table and we chatted and I gathered they were on an English language course in the city. We introduced ourselves and I discovered they were four Muslim men. We shared stories about our families and lives. We also talked about the church we were sitting in, why it was open at night and why we do this as a group of Christians. Throughout our conversation I tried to speak slowly and clearly as they were learning the English language. I was also trying to be respectful of them as Muslims and they were very happy for me to talk about being a Christian. We talked together for about 45 minutes and they appreciated being made welcome.
- Two middle aged men came in to Night Church. They were on holiday and were enjoying being in Chester but one had been to Night Church about a year before and was so impressed by the atmosphere of peace that he had brought his friend. They stayed about half an hour, sitting quietly and listening to the music, and thanked me as they left for an “amazing experience”.
These are just a few of the stories that come from Night Church and give a taste of the reactions of
visitors as they come in.
In addition we have lots of very appreciative “thank you’s” each night we are open and these are from people who had no intention of going into a church on their night out.