From nightclub to Sunday club

Sunday services have begun to be held in a nightclub in Chatham while the church building next door undergoes a major refurbished.  Disused for 20 years, the redevelopment of St. John’s church is part of an exciting plan for mission in the area. Vicar of St. John’s and Mission Leader for Chatham, Rev Carol Morgan, explains how this unlikely partnership came about.

How did ‘St. John’s on Tap’ come about?

When I realised that St Johns would not be open for some time, I began to look around for alternative venues to establish a new church community. There were very few options and I believed we needed to be located near Chatham town centre. I don’t remember whose suggestion it was, but I messaged the Tap and Tin night club and asked if I could talk to the owner, John Terry. John was very generous and helpful. He answered us quickly and positively. Both he and his team have been incredible in accommodating us. The ‘St. John’s on Tap’ church community is very grateful.

How long do you expect to be located at the Tap and Tin for?

There is, at the moment, no end date.  I am hoping we can develop our relationship with the Tap n Tin over time.

When will St John’s be reopened?

Right now, there is no opening date. Extensive surveys have been undertaken and reconstruction and renovation work has to go out to tender to specialist contractors as it’s a grade 2 star listed building.

Nightclubs and churches have very differing reputations though?

For us as a church community, it’s about being with people where they are, sharing the outrageous love and care Jesus has for everyone, particularly those who wouldn’t be comfortable in a conventional church environment. Jesus’ love is out there today. Its unconditional, and so we hope to show that to those we meet. I know the owner of the nightclub also cares for the people who come into his club, and he cares about Chatham.

Do you think other churches should be more willing to do things like this?

Only if its where they feel they are being called to. I think we have grown out of the “one size fits all” church culture. Many churches serve their communities where they are, many are now looking at different ways of being church in their communities. All over the country new churches are being planted and established in unusual places in response to the vision God has given to set up these new worshipping communities.

Will the change in environment change the order of the service in any way?

Absolutely. We are very informal. Without trying to push things just because we can. We do want to be open and relevant to those that come to us. We want to be inclusive and make it as easy as possible for people to be part of our community.

Do you believe the venue may put some people off or attract new members of the congregation?

Probably both, but I do know people have chosen to come to us, looking to express their spirituality in a new and relevant way. It is early days of course, but we are a growing community. We have even had families seeking to have their children baptised at the venue. I also realise that it’s not for everyone. Some would probably hate it. God made us all differently. It’s part of his creative generosity.

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