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Pioneer Ministry to the Night-time Economy of Leeds

Beth TashBeth Tash: Pioneer Minister to the Night-time Economy of Leeds City Centre.

Beth is employed by the Diocese of Ripon & Leeds as a Pioneer Minister to the Night Time Economy. She was previously a student in the city and then a youth pastor at St George's Church Leeds. Beth's current role is part funded through funding from the Archbishops' Council and Church Commissioners. She writes about her experience so far in this exciting and challenging role:

I was a terrible choice for this job. I’ve never enjoyed clubbing. I don’t really like late nights. And I really didn’t know much about the nightlife scene in the city I’d been in for 10 years. I actually didn’t know what to do, or where to start, or what activity might work as ‘mission’ in this culture. And that unnerved me.

I did really believe, and still do, that God opened this role up for me and led me into it. All I could do, was what others who’ve been pioneering and reaching out for years kept telling me; Pray, listen, and love the person in front of you.

One of the projects we wanted to start was Street Angels; a ministry started by local churches in Halifax who wanted to respond to the needs of their town’s nightlife.God provided some fantastic volunteers, great partnerships with other agencies across the city, and some funding. This project just kind of happened with a bunch of us giving it a go, and it continues to grow steadily with lots to make us smile, lots to stop us in our tracks, and lots to still hope for.

But God kept tugging on me as I prayer walked and met people who work and play in the nightlife. As I listened to both Him and them,it dawned on me that most of the people involved in the nightlife are in the clubs. This seems obvious to me now – and probably obvious to everyone else – but to me, at the time, this seemed problematic.

See I used to think that mission started with action. Our action in response to God’s love for us and His world. And I think in someways that’s true. Though that mindset so wrongly centres mission around me and what imaginative strategy I might come up with next. And because I didn’t know, or love, or particularly want to be in the Clubs – I really didn’t know what to do. I definitely felt afraid. I was definitely becoming increasingly aware of my own judgements and prejudices towards club culture, and I definitely wished someone else had taken this job – someone way cooler, someone who was more in the world of music and djs and dance… to be honest, anyone who wasn’t me!

I took a few days out to seek God on this. What on earth would non – cringey, actually effective mission in the club scene look like? Someone suggested I went to stay with some nuns. Which I did.

While I was there – God reminded me surely and beautifully, and kind of embarrassingly… that He loved the world so much that He sent His only son… to turn up, to listen, to love, to heal, to challenge, to save, and to invite me and all and any He came across, into relationship with Him and into a transformed life which experiences His personal and dynamic reign.

Here, again, was the message… don’t aim to start a project… but come to love the clubs so much that you turn up into them, love the people you find there, and see what happens…

So with almost the ‘blessing’ of one nightclub owner, I texted a few mates, and we did just that. We asked God to stretch our hearts, teach us to love as He does, to open our ears to hear Him and the people around us, and we turned up.

18 months on and the project is still as simple as that. Our t-shirts say ‘chat help listen care, ps we’re Christians, ask us more if you want,’ and that’s what we do. We serve practically as we care for people’s physical health and safety, we listen to stories of people’s lives, hopes, struggles and we pray with and for people, share our faith, ask and answer questions and essentially love the people in front of us in many different ways.

All of us would now say we have friends who are door staff, bar staff, club managers, and police…we meet with clubbers outside of the clubs and explore faith together. One small group that has started together comprises a DJ, a clubber, a club manager and two people that party hard! Two of them were baptised this Easter, and most of them are starting to call the church I’m part of home. It’s slow and steady… and it’s God at work drawing people to Himself… and its beautiful, and worth everything.

Club Angels is financially low – cost, though the spiritual, social, losing – sleep costs are high… and yet this is where the grace of God is teaching me that mission is not an activity. The heart of mission is found in the heart of God.The heart of God is a heart so full of a love that dwells, welcomes, invites and transforms… a heart that continues to overwhelm me as He continues to turn up in my life…and what is more – although we physically turn up in the club, what we find again and again is that God is already nudging, speaking, and sparking things in people’s lives…

God loves me so much, loves us so much, loves the clubs so much, loves the world so much – even with all it’s mess, hurt, abuse of self and other and its absolute brokenness,  He loves it enough to turn up in it. And in the clubs – we do just the same.

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