A Safe Space for students offering sanctuary and hot buttered toast
Many of us dropping off our young people in strange new university towns, quietly weeping on the way home as they dive headlong into Freshers’ Week, yearn for a safe space for them. Student life can be an exhilarating but daunting rollercoaster of newness – new friends, new identity in a new life, new freedoms and new levels of alcohol consumption.
How great then that the teams at New Street Church and Huddle have come up with Safe Space. Trialled during Freshers’ Week, they were amazed at the response. “We opened at 9pm and stayed open until almost 4.00am and had over 350 interactions with students on the way to or from pubs, clubs and events,” says Ben Barnes, Student and Youth Pastor at New Street Church.
Filling the gap between town and students
Offering free tea, toast and timeout, it’s a safe place to take a break, have a chat, find a shoulder to cry on or the best way to get home. “We love students in Falmouth, they bring so much to the town, but often get a bad press. We wanted to find a way to stand in the gap between the town and the students, reach out to them and bless them where they are.”
And where many of them are on Thursday evenings is on the streets. It’s traditionally student night when the pubs and clubs offer cheaper drinks and free entrance. How better to make Safe Space known than by joining them out there to offer free tea and hot buttered toast?
Safe space for street pastors
“The street pastors do such a great job in the town throughout the night, we wanted to bless them too. Safe Space offers somewhere warm, a home, where they can take people to or just get a cuppa.” Like street pastors, the team at Safe Space are also there for the messy things – a sick bucket, water, breath-freshening mints. There is no judgement.
“We could be the only Bible that some people ever read, so this is our chance to show what a loving God looks like,” says Ben. “Lots of the students were very appreciative – and I think a bit surprised too that the church would do something like this for them.” It’s exactly where Jesus would have been, on the streets, in the pubs, connecting with people.
“We could be the only Bible that some people ever read, so this is our chance to show what a loving God looks like,” says Ben Barnes, Student and Youth Pastor at New Street Church
Huddle, not what you’d expect
It’s such a simple idea but so wonderfully done. It helps that Huddle is a cool café in the middle of Falmouth. It isn’t what you might expect from a café connected to a church – it’s trendy, arty and comfortable. But it’s also steeped in prayer, making it the sort of place that feels different, in a good way, but you wouldn’t necessarily know why.
The team knows what it feels like to feel excluded, particularly by the small things. A few students said they would have loved to join in but couldn’t tolerate gluten. Safe Space had gluten free bread on hand, which, if you’re used to having to stand aside, speaks volumes.
Working across the denominations
New Street, which is central to the first phase of Transforming Mission, is working with four churches across Falmouth, across the denominations to deliver Safe Space. The hope is that more churches will get involved that responsibility for subsequent evenings can be shared. As Ben says, “At 2am, Huddle looked like a busy day shift. It was extraordinary. Many of us didn’t get to bed until 5.00am and we were all just buzzing as the evening had gone so well. But that’s not sustainable every week – especially with a young family!” If Safe Space is something that you would like to get involved in, please contact Ben.
At 2am Huddle looked like a busy day shift. It was extraordinary
On the first night, they got through 11 loaves of bread, doing a dash to buy more in the early hours. When running Safe Space the following week it was a similar story with almost 300 interactions with students. “The rain worked to our advantage as it drew students inside where we had some fantastic conversations about faith and life’s big questions. There were familiar faces and students who factored us into their plans on their way home, which was lovely.”
Safe Space – not judging, just loving
Safe Space is such an exciting endeavour. It’s exactly where the church should be – out there, where people are. Not judging, just loving.
If you would like to find out more or to get involved, please contact Ben at New Street Church, Falmouth. The teams need more people to make it sustainable and would love to share the responsibility for hosting with other churches in the town.
Written by Jac Smith