“I haven’t known the gentleman long, but everyone loves him here.”

So says one of the regulars at the weekly Footprints Café gathering – Thursday afternoons at the church hall in Camborne – of St Martin and St Meriadoc’s curate, the Reverend Rory Clare.

About twenty people are gathered here for tea, biscuits and fellowship. The age range is striking. The oldest are in their eighties. The youngest is six months old.

The event was relaunched after the pandemic as a safe and friendly space to welcome and support all comers.

“When we started it up again, we thought we’d just see who came,” Rory explains. “With a group like this, you can never predict the course it’s going to take. We’ve got our regulars – who are always great to see – and we also get people who come in with particular things to talk about, such as health or housing, and we do our best to signpost them to the right support.”

Most people are drawn to the weekly gatherings by good word-of-mouth.

“A lot of people come along because we’ve bumped into them in town or because a friend has suggested it,” he says. “It’s great that we can be responsive to the people who come to us.”

Revd Rory Clare

Footprints Café is just one of several successful social initiatives run by St Martin and St Meriadoc’s Church, as part of their Transforming Mission project – work which is transforming many people’s lives and revitalizing the meanings and impacts of Christian mission in the town.

Their weekly Tuesday Teatime sessions regularly attract over a hundred young people and their families for hot dogs, cake and tea. That initiative itself inspired some of its regulars to set up a children’s clothes bank at the church.

Revd Rory says that the clothes bank initiative has shown how the work of the Church not only supports people but also empowers them. It was an initiative not only run by volunteers but established by members of the local community and had developed out of the Teatime events.

Rory vividly remembers the first time he visited the clothes bank.

“It was the first time in my curacy here that I felt overpowered,” he recalls. “I thought the phenomenal amount of good being done here was absolutely wonderful. It was an incredibly moving experience, all the more so because it had been so spontaneous. If we can help people to do things like that, then amazing things can happen – and amazing things have happened.”

“The footfall we receive at these events has come about by the hard work and dedication of the whole team, and their commitment to be simply present for people to come and be themselves,” adds the Reverend Rosheen Browning, priest-in-charge of the benefice. “I’m so blessed to have such a great team around me and so privileged to be a part of what God is doing here in Camborne.”

It was September 2023 that the children’s clothes bank in Camborne first set up its stall at the church hall as part of the Teatime project. In the space of a year, it’s grown so big that it now takes up the entire interior St Martin and St Meriadoc’s Church itself.

The brainchild of a group of local mothers, it now attracts up to 200 people on the first Tuesday of every month.

By the time it opens at 14.00, its team of volunteers have been working for more than four hours laying out thousands of donated items on pews and trestle tables through the church.

“Some people start queuing an hour before we open,” says Lisa, one of the organisers. “They sometimes queue past the church, past Wetherspoons and as far up as the hotel.”

When they’d first been offered the opportunity to move the monthly event into the church, they’d thought they wouldn’t be able to fill the space.

“But it’s just grown and grown,” Lisa says.

“Every month we think it’s going to big, but then the next month beats it,” adds Hayley, who co-founded the event, and whose work was recently nominated in the BBC’s Make a Difference awards.

“We have people coming from all over the place,” she says. “From Penzance to St Austell – they come from everywhere now.”

Organisers Hayley and Lisa

It had been the Reverend Graham Adamson who’d first suggested that they move the event into the church.

“It’s phenomenal, isn’t it?” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. People come from far and wide, from Marazion, Helston, Hayle…”

One visitor from Hayle at this month’s event was Amy.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “More than useful. It’s a lifeline, it really is. It shows the church as a warm place that welcomes people and helps them. It’s also about reusing and recycling. Everybody benefits. It’s a win-win situation. Hopefully more communities will pick up on this and do it as well.”

Each month the church is filled with many thousands of donated items of baby and children’s clothes and toys. Larger items, such as prams and cots, can be viewed on the project’s Facebook page and picked up directly from organisers’ homes. In just a year, the initiative has helped thousands of people.

Kattrina is one of those who have volunteered with the clothes bank since it started.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s hectic but we look forward to it every month. It’s great to hear the feedback – the difference it makes to people’s lives.”

Revd Graham Adamson