Teatime for Families takes place each Tuesday afternoon at St Martin and St Meriadoc Church Hall in Camborne. The growth in its popularity has proven really rather phenomenal. It has become something of a local go-to event.

“Last week we had 125 people come through the doors,” says organiser Becky Lines, Camborne’s Children and Families Leader. “It’s really exciting. When we started, we thought it was just going to be for young families. Then we found we were getting loads and loads of teenagers, and they were starting to bring their friends.”

It all began during the pandemic, in the early months of 2021, when the country was feeling the strain of the third national lockdown. It started very simply. Standing at a legally compliant social distance, a youth worker would hand out free hot dogs and doughnuts at the open door of the church hall to young people and families passing by outside.

Teenagers now turn up straight from school, and parents come along with their children. They’re provided with a warm and friendly space, hot and cold drinks, snacks and even a family-friendly hot meal – pizza, chicken dippers and those ever-popular hot dogs – plus homemade cakes and desserts. There’s something with pancakes and cream that would blow your mind and your diet.

Hannah Green is the youth worker for Transforming Mission in the Camborne Cluster of Churches. She joined the Teatime initiative last September.

“It was quite big when I started and it’s got even bigger,” she says.

The path through the churchyard next to the church hall is a popular route home from school. The teenagers come in from about three o’clock for a snack on their journey home.

“They’re really appreciative of a place where they’re welcomed and not judged,” says Hannah. “They like to have somewhere to go where they can sit for a while with their friends and have a chat. There’s not a lot else on in Camborne for young people at the moment.

“It’s really good to feel like I’m helping. I’m here to be a listening ear. We can talk about whatever they like, the things they’re interested in, the things they’re struggling with. It’s a very welcoming, comfortable space. The door’s open for anyone and everyone.

“It’s aiming to be a neutral ground. There are people in the community who wouldn’t set foot in a church. But in a place that’s not quite a church they feel more comfortable. They feel they can be themselves.

“We have a couple of teenagers who volunteer in the kitchen. They do it because they want to support their community. That’s really lovely.”

Camborne’s Reverend Graham Adamson sees the initiative as seeking to help meet the needs of the people of Camborne, to take the pressure off families hit first by Covid-19 and then by the cost-of-living crisis.

“We’ve been told for years that young people don’t want to come into churches,” says Graham. “We’ve been told that families who don’t go to church are sceptical about the church. That’s all simply not true. Most of the people who come here weren’t previously connected with the church.

“We’re just providing a place of welcoming consistency, with food and friendly faces. At first, we were astounded by how quickly the community made itself at home here, how people wanted to be welcomed here and accept the very humble offering we have. It’s about meeting people’s needs, about meeting where they’re at.

“It’s astonishing how many people want to be part of this community, a community which is empowering itself.

“But we shouldn’t be surprised. This church has service to the community deep in its DNA. It’s always been about social action, about helping the community, about helping the homeless. Local people are now coming to the church bringing that DNA with them.”

Those people are, as Graham says, now busy empowering themselves. A further community initiative has already grown out of these weekly gatherings. A group of mothers who come regularly on Tuesday afternoons have set up a monthly babies’ and children’s clothes bank, as part of the Teatime events. They started with a single table, but quickly outgrew the church hall. Today, supported by more than a dozen volunteers, they take up the entire church once a month.

“This is the coalface,” says Graham. “This is where Jesus would be, at the sharp end of life, helping people in the here and now.

“It’s also about helping people on their journey of faith. It’s an open door. We’re not teaching. It’s a place where we say, Come in – there’s a place for you. A place at the table, as it were.”

On the dot of three, the doors fly open to admit the eager hordes. First the schoolkids, then the parents with their babies and toddlers. While Becky and her team of enthusiastic volunteers beaver away behind the kitchen counter preparing the food and drinks, Hannah and Graham start to meet, greet and serve their guests. The hall buzzes with a friendly, comfortable energy. It feels safe, relaxed and natural. It feels like family. It really feels like home.