St Barnabas and the Community
The community at St Barnabas acts very similar to a family in many ways, looking out for each other and willing to do what is needed to support each other. Many of our congregation are elderly or live on their own so for a number of years a parish lunch has been held most months after the Sunday service to bring the congregation together over food, just able to spend time together and talk. In 2017, a community Christmas lunch was offered together with St Luke’s Church. Social events are well attended, and well supported.
An outing is organised each year for anyone associated with the church who would like to attend. Neighbouring church members are invited and have joined us. This year the congregation expressed a desire to attend a quiet day off-site, consequently this is being organised as part of our Lenten discipline.
For two hours on a Wednesday afternoon, a club is held at the church to which all ages and abilities are invited to attend for some companionship. A range of puzzles and games are provided for people to do, including a much-enjoyed game of bingo. Refreshments are provided free-of-charge. The club is attended by a range of people, but generally those who are on their own or the more vulnerable in the area. People come from both within the parish and further afield as word of the welcome they would receive spread. Over the last 5 years the club has roughly doubled in size, such is the need. Several members of the club then started attending the church services with a number confirmed in 2016.
On Friday Evenings during term time a youth group meets at the church led by Lynn and a small group of volunteers. Children of ages 5 to 15 attend to play games, and generally enjoy some fun activities together for a few hours, and enjoy a trip to the pantomime at Christmas. There is potential for this to become a missional activity with the right input.
The school holidays can be a difficult time for parents trying to find different activities for their children to do at a reasonable price as there are limited activities offered in the local area. As a church we recognise this as an area of need and so a holiday club is provided by members of the congregation for a couple of days over a period of four weeks in the Summer holidays. This is a popular activity, much sought out by parents and families throughout the Medway towns, via our Facebook page.
Opportunities in the local community
Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the number of enquiries for baptism and attendance at the services and activities aimed at the younger members of the community has increased. However, this dos not necessarily translate into attendance at Sunday services. Some of the parents we have spoken to have said that the timing of the Sunday service clashes with the children’s Sunday Football meaning they are unable to attend the church service with any regularity. One of the options the PCC would like to consider is whether services could be offered differently or additionally which may better suit the needs of families in the community.
Up until a few months ago, the church hall used to host a local SureStart centre run by the council, where parents and carers for young children could come to meet and spend some time together. Following the closure of the SureStart centre a number of queries have been received as parents look for somewhere to meet, suggesting a need to start a pram and buggy perhaps.
Over the last four years the church has played host to the Medway Night Shelter, and as a result this has really opened our eyes to the growing number of homeless people and those in vulnerable housing in the surrounding area.
Social media – the church currently has a Facebook page and a Twitter account however recognise that we could be making better use of these opportunities and tools to connect with our followers.
St Barnabas continues to maintain links with the schools in our parish and school classes have enjoyed outings to St Barnabas to learn more about the Easter story or the church itself. There is scope for further engagement with the schools, as high attendance at some church events like the Good Friday Workshop and the Crib and Christingle points to a latent faith among our children and their families, which needs to be nurtured.