Breaking new ground with TM Falmouth
TM Falmouth is the oldest sibling of the Transforming Mission family that has rolled out across five areas in Cornwall: Camborne, Liskeard, St Austell and Truro. Like all older siblings, it’s the first to break new ground, to try to make sense of what it all means, make mistakes, pick itself back up and get back to leading the way for the rest of the family. Today, 3 years in, a pandemic and multiple lockdowns later, it’s growing up to be an inspiring example of what Transformation Mission is all about.
The jewel in the TM crown was always the Huddle café in the centre of Falmouth. When that had to close over last summer, there was a huge amount of sadness and thoughts of what next? Unfortunately, although a wonderful missional base that reached out into the community in so many creative ways, it simply did not make enough money to keep it running as a commercial enterprise. The lockdowns were the final straw and tough decisions had to be made, including making valued staff members redundant.
“Closing Huddle was an incredibly painful decision,” says Revd Sophie Chatten, Lead Minister of New Street. “But all is not lost. Far from it. Huddle remains an extraordinary resource from where worship continues, at least it will when lockdown finally ends, and gives us loads of opportunities to think how best to use this gift.”
Life after lockdown for Huddle
Similar to the pub recently bought by Holy Trinity in St Austell, Huddle is in a prime town centre location with the capacity to reach thousands of people. Plans include using it as a base for street pastors, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), developing a youth café and a hub for the work Bianca Parry will be doing in her new role as Community Engagement Lead. Bianca was the original Huddle café manager, then events coordinator. Like her husband Matt, she has become woven into the fabric of Falmouth, understanding how the different communities work together, the opportunities to connect and how best to communicate something meaningful. Having the Huddle space at the heart of her work presents great opportunities for access and engagement. As we come out of the pandemic a great many will be hurting. It’s not just the financial fallout and emotional impact of lockdowns, but the pain of grief and loss. Loss of loved ones, or jobs, missed opportunities or life plans put on hold or diverted. Huddle could be that safe space to help unpack some of those issues.
Community engagement and deanery focus for TM Falmouth
Community engagement is a high priority for the TM team in Falmouth. They have just come to the end of Hidden Voices, a training course to equip people about modern slavery. Run by the Clewer Initiative and administered and hosted by the TM team with Churches Together in Falmouth and Penryn and Transformation Cornwall, it was attended by people from different churches and groups across the county. “Modern slavery is on the rise. Lockdown has escalated the problem as the slavers target the vulnerable. It’s here, in Cornwall, and we all need to recognise the signs and know what to do when we see them,” says Sophie.
The work of TM Falmouth is so much wider than just the town. It’s a deanery resource that is being embraced across the Carnmarth South region. From Mawnan Smith, Mabe and Ponsanooth to Mylor, Flushing and St Gluvias in Penryn, the churches are all onboard. “Thankfully there is a strong sense of us all being in it together, which is really helpful and healthy. It isn’t just about the three churches in Falmouth. There is a lot of energy around the new church plant New Street and the existing All Saints and King Charles the Martyr, especially now that Rev Canon Bill Stuart-White is priest -in-charge of both. But we are resource churches, and we are here for the whole deanery.”
“Thankfully there is a strong sense of us all being in it together, which is really helpful and healthy. It isn’t just about the three churches in Falmouth.”
Kids Matter from All Saints
Some of those resources include the parenting course, Kids Matter. This is an innovative programme that is already being used to great effect in St Luke’s Boscoppa. There is no overt Christian element, but it is all about coming alongside parents and giving them space to talk through their needs and problems. Designed to help parents who are vulnerable for all sorts of reasons, families are referred by the school and commit to working with the Kids Matter team over a school term.
“It embodies the notion of mission. It isn’t evangelistic, it’s about being with parents, listening and finding ways to help them. Through these relationships it might become apparent that food poverty is an issue, or finding confidence to get back into work or affording school uniform. That doesn’t mean we have to set up a foodbank, back-to-work training scheme or even a uniform shop. But by working together, across the deanery, we can hear the needs and signpost where help can be offered,” says Sophie.
“It embodies the notion of mission. It isn’t evangelistic, it’s about being with parents, listening and finding ways to help them.”
Jane Wheeler, TM’s Schools and Families Leader and former primary school teacher, has trained in Kids Matter and will be running the programme out of All Saints later this year. Jane is part of the growing team at Falmouth who brings a rich wealth of experience to the role. When the team ran Advent Adventures at All Saints before Christmas, the potential for children to become completely over-excited was very high! Because Jane was a primary school teacher herself, she knows the challenges of large groups of children, especially on an outing just before Christmas. They all had tremendous fun but when called to be calm by Jane, the pupils instantly were. This is important for teachers as it gives them confidence that the TM team know what they are doing, that the children are in safe hands and the teachers can relax and get something out of the activities as well.
How lockdown opened doors
Jane is building up trust with schools across Falmouth and bizarrely it has been lockdown that opened the doors. Jane gently reached out to one school and asked if they needed any help. She explained that the team had produced videos of Bible stories for assemblies and resources for spiritual reflection at home. The school jumped at the chance and then other schools contacted Jane to say they would like some resources too, including one school who had previously been reluctant to have any Christian input at all.
During the respite from lockdowns last summer, Johnny Lewis, the team’s Young People’s Leader and Charlotte Butcher, Children and Families Leader, did some really creative work with year six children. Lockdown for this age group was particularly trying as they approached the end of their primary education to transition to secondary school. Any parent of a year six child will know well the rites of passage they go through from end of year productions, the sense of outgrowing their school and the sessions spent at secondary school to ease the transition.
TM Falmouth as a resource church
Working alongside other churches, Transforming Mission Falmouth hosted and organised the 24/7 prayer weekend for Churches Together in Falmouth and Penryn and have been involved in joint services at Pentecost and Christmas. Worship Leader Matt Parry, through his incredible musical gifts, has been involved in various recordings with South West Carols and South West praise. The team have also worked alongside Light and Life at Christmas and the Emmanuel Baptist Church for a Light Trail at Hallowe’en and a child-friendly Christingle service.
Within the deanery, TM teamed up with Budock Church. “Revd Geoff Bennett has been extremely gracious, sharing curate Revd Ben Morgan Lundie’s time with us at New Street.” This meant they were able to deliver an online Alpha Course that proved so successful they followed up with a prayer course. This drew people not only from across Cornwall, but as far away as the Midlands!
A season of adapting, reacting, reacting and thinking again
Like every other church across Cornwall and beyond, the past year has been a series of trying new things, adapting, reacting and thinking again. From limited in-person services, to live streams, pre-records, Zoom meetings and Facebook gatherings. “It’s been exhausting! People are suffering from screen fatigue,” says Sophie. Benefits however have included the necessity to upgrade the audio-visual equipment in All Saints church, home of both All Saints and New Street congregations. “The equipment is great but it’s not just for us. It’s a deanery resource that we are excited to think how it could be used – for recording weddings, school productions, recitals. We’ve also been blessed with people who have helped us to get the most from it.”
The blessing of people at just the right time
Being blessed with people to help has definitely been a thing at TM Falmouth. “Whenever we’ve come to a full stop and wondered who would be able to help, help arrives. From a highly qualified sound engineer to members of the team with editing skills and BBC experience!” It’s been the pattern all along. It might not have always been clear to see in the moment, but when you take a step back and see who God has brought together and how the team is working, it’s a great lesson in letting God be God and do what He needs to.
That doesn’t mean to say there haven’t been frustrations, but even the frustrations have created opportunities. As Revd Canon Bill Stuart-White, Team Leader of TM Falmouth and Priest of All Saints and KCM Parish Churches says, “Despite, and through, all the challenges of the past couple of years, I am so encouraged and excited to have seen the hand of God at work. Building something new and vibrant, but also restoring and refreshing the existing congregations. There is still much to do on both counts but, as my favourite scripture says, “He who began a good work among you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6)
“He who began a good work among you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6)
Trusting God in dry dock when you really want to be out on the water
And as Revd Sophie Chatten, Lead Minister of New Street, says, “Fittingly for Falmouth, it sometimes feels as if we’re a boat in dry dock. We want to be out on the water, but our season is to build, set good foundations, good relationships, good rhythms and start conversations. It’s been tiring at times, as it has been for everyone else. Constantly changing plans and adapting. Being patient. Trusting that God will continue to open doors so that we can do the things he has been forming in us, planting in our hearts. But God has been faithful.”
He certainly has. Exciting times are ahead for the Transforming Mission team at Falmouth. The dry dock season is coming to an end and they are ready to set sail. There’s little doubt that God will put plenty of wind in their sails and maintain a steady hand on their tiller – even when the course isn’t always the one they thought they were on.