The wheels on Thurrock's Bar'N'Bus stop going round and round...
Grays Beach Bar'N'Bus
5 May 2009 - 12 July 2016
A couple of Tuesdays ago, it was the end of an era for youth work in Thurrock. The closing of the Grays Beach Bar'N'Bus marked the end of all Bar'N'Bus work in the borough.
Since 2005, when Grays Police bought the Thurrock bus and financed its refurbishment - there have been five Bar'N'Bus teams in the borough. These were:
Blackshots car park
Corringham Town Centre
Chafford Hundred, next to All Saints Church
West Thurrock - Cowdary Hall car park
Grays Beach - near Kilvert's Field
For those who donn't know, Bar'N'Bus was a bus with a bar on it! The bus was kitted out like a mobile youth club with seating down the sides, TVs, games consoles, tables for board games, and a bar providing hot and cold liquid refreshments and sometimes food - and the occasional lemon drizzle cake!
But most importantly was the prayer room at the front of the top deck. Here, team members on a rota would be in constant prayer. It was also a place for conselling young people and praying with them upon request.
The beauty of the teams was that each was drawn from across the whole church of Thurrock, regardless of denomination. Jesus was openly talked about and the gospel gossiped every time the bus went out.
Across Thurrock, a whole generation of school kids out on the streets at night have been served by Bar'N'Bus. It shall be missed.
Why has Bar'N'Bus closed down? Because the charity behind it - who had had in it's 23-year history other buses that went out to other locations in South Essex - kept having problems running the aging vehicles, and it became increasingly difficult to get the Thurrock bus out. The end was nigh also for the Raylaigh Bar'N'Bus team, which had been going since 1993!
Bar'N'Bus were also finding it harder to raise the funding necessary to run each night as participating churches began to focus their evangelism and youth work in other ways. The task of recruiting team members was also an isuue. Because of these reasons, three teams had recently disbanded.
On the final night of the Grays Beach Bar'N'Bus, a number of young people turned out to bid farewell. In the cross-denominational team were:
from Thurrock Christian Fellowship (Grays)
Gary Jones (team leader)
Harold 'H' Hoyte
Yinka Ojo (right, on the left with Roz)
from Community Church Chafford Hundred
from Grays Baptist Church
Roz Bennett (right, on the right with Yinka)
... and Keith from the Bar'N'Bus Trust and veteran Rayleigh team leader.
Some of these guys have been part of the team from the start, and have gone out every Tuesday night come rain, shine, sun. moon, ice and snow, for the sake of those young people.
These and everyone else who has ever been part of a Thurrock Bar'N'Bus team are to be applauded.
"Well done My good and faithful servants."
Or, as I used to say when I was the Bar'N'Bus Thurrock Teams' Co-ordinator, borrowing the words of Mr Grace in Are You Being Served?...
"You've all done very well!"
What next for Bar'N'Bus? There's talk of Thurrock fellowships pooling resources to buy a co-owned multi-purpose vehicle... As for the Trust, see http://www.barnbus.org.uk/
Here are the thoughts of a few of the team...
Gary Jones, Grays Beach Team Leader (right)
It's been a privilege to be there for the young folks who we have seen grow up into some fantastic people. We shared their joys when exams have been passed or they've complete a sponsored event. Shared their worries over school and family situations. Played (and been beaten) on many games and even seen some of them return years later bringing kids of their own to see us. They all have so much potential.
The team has been so faithful in being prepared to go out each week, sometimes not knowing if the bus would make it.
We have grown as a team too.We've come together from different walks of life, each brining a different skill, refreshment-makers, encouragers, good listeners, ones who can bring the right words, songs or thoughts for the time, drivers, sports people.
It's been a walk of faith from start to finish. We have found ourselves meeting challenges and situations we never thought we would find ourselves in or could deal with.
The bus has been so central to the work. It's been an informal space where you can just hop on and hop off unlike a fixed building. A place just to hang out where there are no expectations on you to be anything.
It's been a big part of all our lives for so long it's going to be hard to leave behind.
Edwin Hughes, Grays Beach Team Member (right, on the left with H)
I joined the Grays Bus Team from it’s inception and start up.
I was not the most gifted in the area of youth work in fact you could say I was an absolute novice.
However, I knew I was meant to do it as God gave me a vision some weeks before start up of what I thought was a
runway with posts at either side but when we prayer walked the car park where
the bus was going to be a week before start up I realised that the car park with it’s posts on either
side was my vision.
It took a while before the young people started to come on board and there were weeks where no one showed up.
However we persisted and eventually had a regular attendance of varying numbers from week to week.
This enabled the team to have regular contact with a number of young people and establish
meaningful and long lasting relationships with many interesting conversations.
There was plenty of opportunity to be a listening ear fro the young peoples problems and
to try and give help and advice where possible.
The young people came to trust the team members and were on the whole well behaved and
mostly open to correction if they broke the rules of the bus. There were of course some exceptions
and those who would try to push the boundaries but on the whole the young people eventually
endeavoured to police those incidents themselves before team members had to intervene.
For personal reasons I had to give up after 5 years but I greatly enjoyed my time on the bus and was enriched by
the experience even during the cold winter nights.
It’s disappointing that it has had to close and I was glad I could go back on the last night to be part of
the experience for one last time.
I pray that God has something better planned to replace it going forward.
Len Stockwell, Grays Beach Team Member
I think its a big disappointment to stop it as we were getting on well with the young people ,where will they go now when they need help and advice and I don't think that I should go back to church now because how can we preach the gospel when we do this to the young and vulnerable people.