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Rochford Community Church
Talking with David Clayton, senior leader of Rochford Community Church
(22nd October 2013)

This is the third in this series where we ask local church leaders the slightly contentious question, “Is the church still there?” in order to allow each leader to share how they are still very much part of the life of the community.   In this one we spoke with the senior leader of Rochford Community Church, David Clayton, in their shop, Number One, at the top of the Square, which was a fitting venue to talk about the activities they provide for the community.

Rochford Life: I was asked the other day what is the church in the Freight House, highlighting I think confusion over a church in a non-church building. What are the differences or, for that matter, what are the similarities with other churches?
David:  I think I’d start by saying it is the same and it is different. In terms of what we believe our theology, if you like, would be similar to many of the other churches in the area that have buildings and are established. The difference in not having a building is that maybe it reminds us more that the Church is people rather than buildings.  While not having a space of your own can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, if you are running events, there are some benefits in understanding people coming together, being the church together.

RL: What about Sunday mornings? Would my questioner be surprised by what she would find by coming along to the Freight House at 10.30 on a Sunday morning? What happens?
David: It really depends on what Sunday they come. Our approach is to involve children and young people as much and as fully as we can in the life of the church so, for instance, on one Sunday of each month we have a Children’s Church in which the whole morning is particularly geared to children and young people with lots of activities, videos and things like that being used, to make sure they find church a good experience and a good fun time, as well as a time when we do more serious things. On other Sundays we try and involve them in the worship with whole families being together. Some Sundays we do different things in different rooms so you might find quiet worship going on in one room, and more noisy worship in another room. Sometimes there will be a small group Bible study going on and at other times you can listen to someone speaking. So there will be a variety of things going on depending on which Sunday people come to visit us.

RL: The name ‘community church’. What marks you out as different from other churches?
David: I suppose the ‘community church’ name marks us out as being outside of the normal denominations, and set up with the particular intent to be a part of and be involved in the community.  The result or outworking of that is, for instance, that we have this shop in West Street in Rochford  which sells children’s toys and games and gifts, and intends to be something, and provide something, that is not already available in Rochford.  So, our emphasis is church as a community, people together, while at the same time being involved in the wider community and looking to serve and bless that where we can.  

RL: You use these premises for other things as well, I believe?
David: Yes, we do a range of things here (see also their update events page). We’re running I think it is our fourth Jobs Club where we’ve particularly targeted eighteen to twenty-four year olds, working with young people who need to get into employment. The Jobs Club lasts for about eight weeks and they involve group work on all the things you’d expect to help people get employment, such as how to prepare for an interview, how to do your CV, those sorts of skills. At the same time there is a lot of individual work with those who come, to try to help them understand what it is they really want to do, how to progress and achieve that, the dream that they have for their career. We can also use the shop for work experience, for anyone who has left school and hasn’t had work experience and needs something of that to help them, and so we can give them experience working in the shop, which helps when they come to apply for a permanent job.        

RL: When I was in here for the Art Trail, I noticed you have certificates on the wall for people trained as debt counsellors. You do debt counselling?
David: We have the facility although there hasn’t been a lot of involvement so far. Basically we had some of our people trained by an organisation called Christians Against Poverty and they’re set up to help people work out of their debt situations, to help them get their finances in order, to help budget and plan their finances. For anyone who’s in more serious trouble we can actually call on the organisation and they will work with creditors and help people resolve very serious financial situations. So, yes, we have people trained and it is a facility that is available.   

RL: So if someone is in trouble financially, what will they do? Will they just turn up?
David: If they contact us then we can get them together with one of our counsellors and we can work out how we can best help them, how to tackle the situation.

RL: Similarly with the Jobs Club, how do people get to know about that?
David: We advertise on the windows and we put information on the Facebook page. The people who run it with us are from the see/job group (http://www.seejobgroup.com/) and they have information on their web-site but the easiest way is that if anyone wants to give us a call at the shop or drop in, then we can take their details and make sure someone gets in touch with them.    

RL: I see a flyer here of a Craft event coming up in November. Do you do these regularly?
David: We do them monthly. They run for a couple of hours on a Saturday, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon – afternoons help when the parking is free – and they cover a range of ages from toddlers through to ten, eleven or twelve year-olds. Actually anyone who is interested in doing a bit of craft work can come and it’s free.    

RL: How would you summarise all these things? Why do you do them?
David: I think it’s that desire that we have to be actively involved in the community, wanting to provide things that may not be available otherwise, making sure that access  is not a problem, providing this local resource, and at the same time making sure that money is not an issue so that people can come along and get involved without there being a cost associated with it. It’s really just wanting to serve the community and bless the community in whatever way we can.  For instance we also run the Story Corner for 2’s to 4’s or 5’s every Thursday morning, lasting about three quarters of an hour to an hour, with a story and activity, a place where mums can come and bring their toddlers and just enjoy someone else keeping their children occupied and entertained for a little while. We also have a photography club which meets twice a month on a Tuesday evening, and really it’s for enthusiasts who want to come along, share and learn from one another.     

RL: Well, what a variety of things and, again, a church that is very much still here and working in the community. Thank you for being here and for all you are doing. We wish you well in it all. Thank you, David, for your time and for sharing.

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