MCCN The Hayes Conference 2005

Partnership and Coffee Bars

The Revd Phil Mason and the Revd Brian Tomkins Phil Mason is superintendent minister and Brian Tomkins is a minister in the Bolton Mission Circuit.

Phil and Brian's presentation is available in full through this site. Both speakers based much of what they said on their experience in Bolton. What follows are some notes which may be additional to what is in the presentation.


It is too easy to say the problem is out there – maybe the problem is with us.

Many city centre churches have adopted in the 'landlord' model in which they gain revenue from their premises but engage in little partnership.

Engaging in a wider partnership with other churches, other denominations and other traditions and other faiths brings risks, but also other people.

Our coffee bars and cafés are open, safe, comfortable, a (first) place of contact with the church. In Bolton it has provided and opportunity to work with people who have mental health concerns involving trained and paid staff, church members and volunteers.

Food is a by-product – working with people is the main issue and church members can spend more time with people. Bolton has been able to fund projects through money from a variety of sources including a Primary Care Trust, Social Services and various training and employment initiatives.

Town centre development (in Bolton) has involved faith and community groups. It is important for us to be sitting at the table where decisions are made and engage as an equal partner without any apology for what we are but expecting people to take us seriously. The voluntary and community sector is populated by people of faith. Bolton Mission has worked through the Council for Voluntary Services and the Town Centre Company.


Brian explained how he had become interested in chaplaincy during his placement at Manchester Airport where he found himself among a working community of twenty thousand people who were disconnected from any kind of support.

Chaplaincy in Bolton town centre is ecumenical and in partnership with Christians Together, the Greater Manchester Industrial Mission and the Town Centre Company. There are two chaplains each giving one day a week. The manager of the Town Centre Company has been able to 'open doors' and this has led to responding to a suggestion (by a shopping centre manager) that 'Stress Busting' sessions be organised for workers.

Other chaplaincy activities are based in further and higher education, on Tower FM commercial radio (Phil) and with Bolton Wanderers Football Club. There is also the Simeon Counselling Service, support for Bolton Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and the Bolton Cohesion Charter.

Some comments that were made during the presentation:

  • Chaplaincy – get it going and worry about things later
  • Jesus is ahead of us
  • Be prophetic
  • The Kingdom of God is bigger than the church
  • Partnership provides more opportunities
  • We need to get out more – not bogged down
  • When doors open there are opportunities for a ministry of interpretation and for pre-evangelism

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27 March 2005