Chatterteria opens its doors
by Judith Edmonds
photos by courtesy of Park Baptist Church
At 10am on Wednesday 15th September, this Christian outreach project by Park Baptist Church in Great Yarmouth reached fruition and opened its doors to the general public. The property at 86 Middle Market Road, Great Yarmouth first came to the church's attention as a base for their annual Shoebox Appeal work where goods were collected, sorted, boxed and dispatched to needy parts of the world by a dedicated team of volunteers. During the preparation time it was used as a temporary base for Park's Friendship Centre during the time of the fitting of the new kitchen at the church and much interest has been shown during it's development from those passing by. As I walked into Chatterteria this morning, the aroma of delicious smelling coffee was most inviting, as was the welcome received from the volunteers staffing the centre
The Pastor, Rev Derrick Hill said:
"Chatterteria is one of a number of new outreach initiatives started over the past five years at Park Baptist Church in the centre of Great Yarmouth, one of many seaside towns to know the challenges of socio-economic deprivation. Chatterteria will stand alongside such developments as:
· a weekly Friendship Centre which has established a regular clientele including many with mental health and dependency issues, some of whom now worship with us;
a weekly service in the Portuguese language, led by our Home Mission supported Associate Pastor, Leda Schofield, which has drawn in a number of migrant workers,
some of whom have progressed in their faith to take the step of baptism;
· Street Pastors, an inter-denominational outreach to the nightclub clientele operating out of Park Baptist Church and supported by a number of members as Street Pastors and Prayer Pastors
The concept of Chatterteria, which will initially open for two days per week as a Coffee Shop and Christian Contact Centre, staffed entirely by church volunteers, has developed out of the church’s involvement with the Smile Shoebox Appeal. In our first year of involvement we operated from the restricted church premises – but then in 2008 one of those involved approached local estate agents to seek out dedicated premises on a short-term free let. However what we were offered was a shop premise, just off the town centre area with an extended rent free lease in return for undertaking renovations – and from this the vision of Chatterteria started to grow!
The property was in a poor state of repair – for example the toilet was unusable and so anyone “caught short” had to use the public toilets at the nearby shopping centre - but in the Autumn of 2008 church members braved cold, far from ideal, conditions for the Shoebox appeal. At about this time Baptist friends from Ipswich were exploring the idea of an East Anglian Seniors team to undertake building works for churches – and we were accepted as a pilot project. Thus for a week in June 2009 and on a number of Saturdays later in the year friends from Ipswich worked alongside Park’s members on the necessary renovations. It was a time of truly wonderful fellowship alongside the hard work!
During this time, they discovered an unused staircase and gained permission for this to be removed thus greatly increasing the available space for the new project – although also adding to the costs and timespan of renovation which was not finally completed until mid-2010
Despite the use of much voluntary labour the building works cost around £8,000 that was funded by the church with the support of a grant from “The Harvest Charitable Trust” – an independent charitable trust based in Norfolk - whilst BUGB approved a £2,500 Mission Project Grant towards equipping costs
One of the lessons for the church has been about the difficulty of estimating accurately the costs and timescale of such a voluntary labour project – but the church as a whole is now excited about the opportunities before us
During August 2010 the Chatterteria premises were used temporarily by our Tuesday Friendship Centre, enabling this activity to continue whilst kitchen improvements were carried out at the church – but now we look forward to Chatterteria operating for an initial four-year period with minimal overhead costs, offering a welcome to the local community for whom the greatest need is surely to encounter smiling Christians with a listening ear and, through them, Jesus Christ - the one who alone can bring them to fullness of life
Initial reaction from visitors has already been very positive about the “atmosphere” of the facility – surely a reflection of both the commitment that went into the physical project and the level of prayer that has surrounded all aspects of the development"