Church befriends ‘hoodies’ in Hereford

The following article, by James Mercer, Assistant Minister at St. Peter and St. James Churches, may be of interest to local residents. It has been submitted to Church Times in response to an article last week on 'Befriend the ‘thuggish hoodies'.
St Peter’s and St James’ churches in Hereford have grasped the nettle of seeking to embrace the ‘hoody challenge’. Having become concerned at the numbers of young people hanging around St James Church in the evenings and causing nuisance to local residents as well as vandalism within the church grounds, a brave decision was made to open the church to the young people. Jon Holder, Youth Worker in training at St Peters and St James said ‘To us, church is about community. So we dived right in by opening up church on Friday and Saturday evenings - and providing a safe place for young people with hot and cold drinks, pizza, table top games, music and art’. The project has become known as ‘Beyond the Porch’ emphasising that for both the church community and the young people there is more to life beyond the church porch, whichever way you go. Read more ...

‘BYTP’ has involved the church engaging with local residents and the local community association. Communication has been vital as some within the community would much rather the police sought to move the ‘hoodies’ on to another part of the city. Tim Jones, churchwarden said ‘this project is so challenging and rewarding, finding that delicate balance between accepting peoples problems and, without judging, helping them to overcome them - there is so much hurt and need out there.’ The fact that ‘BYTP’ meets in a church would seem not to be a problem for the young people. One of the helpers turned up recently and found the doors still locked. The young people hanging about in the porch reassured her: "It's OK", they told her in a matter-of-fact manner, "they're all round the back praying, and they're opening the doors at half seven, so we'll see you later."

At St Peters another initiative is growing in influence. A former vicarage adjacent to the city centre church has been converted into ‘Close House’ – a youth drop in centre and internet café. The centre is supported by Churches Together in Hereford and managed by an ecumenical team of Anglican, Catholic and Free Church trustees. The centre manager Tony Hodder reports that two hundred and eighty young people visit the centre during the course of the month. 17 year old Karl Lewis said ‘When I come down to Close House I can play pool and listen to music. The staff are very helpful and are willing to help me when I need it.’

Associate Minister of St Peter and St James, James Mercer said ‘We are encouraged and excited by these projects – they are a bit scary and on the edge, but have a ‘kingdom of God’ feel to them.’

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James Mercer 12.12.05

Posted: Thu - December 15, 2005 at 09:47 AM