More seriously, this evening we celebrated our fifth anniversary (attained in April) with an impromptu party, during which the anecdotes flowed as freely as the excellent tea, coffee, home-made sausage rolls, potato wedges and cake (all supplied by the coffee shop). Clearly the NightLight volunteers enjoy the experience of standing outside in the dead of night, serving hot drinks to passers-by irrespective of the weather and the lack of sleep. It certainly gives us plenty to talk about!
We considered how things are going, reflecting both on the enormous appreciation we receive and on the reduced footfall in the town compared with Friday nights when we started. We noted the significance of staffing the project ecumenically - it really challenges public perceptions of the Church. (Those attending tonight came from no fewer than 8 congregations.) We discussed whether we're running at the most effective time, noting that the recent change to open and close half-an-hour earlier than previously has been positive. We decided to experiment with even earlier times during July and August, when the town is normally much quieter. And we resolved to cover, subject to resources, up to three forthcoming nights which are expected to be particularly busy, in addition to Fridays.
Our programme will be as follows:
Fridays in June: 11pm - 3am (14th and 21st are expected to be busy).
Monday 24 June and Thursday 27 June: 11pm - 1.30am (we've been asked if we can cover these two nights).
Fridays during July and August: 10pm - 2am, with a review of times towards the end of August.
Thursday 15 August: 10pm - 1am ('A' level results)
Currently we rely on around 20 active volunteers and another 10 or so occasional helpers. We'd welcome additional volunteers: come along one evening to see what we do. If you'd like to join up, you need to be a regular member of your church and to be recommended by your vicar or minister.
Donations of money or supplies to NightLight are always welcome. Supplies should be Fair Trade: tea, coffee, hot chocolate (the sort which is made with hot water) and sugar. They can be brought into church during opening hours or handed over on any night when we're operational. Money is used to purchase supplies, cups, kitchen rolls, bin bags, etc, and to put towards repairs and replacements. Currently we aim to add a laminated surface to the trolley counter (or, failing that, to repaint it), and we'd also like to design and fit a roof to keep the rain off. Money can be given through the website here or brought into church in a marked envelope during opening hours. We have a strict policy never to accept funds at night - not least to safeguard the security of our volunteers.
Of course, we prayed together too - as we do at the start and end of every NightLight session. We gave thanks for the past five years and for all those whose lives have been touched by NightLight. We prayed for the project and the team; for clubbers; for those working at night, including those upholding law and order; for the homeless and vulnerable; for the life of our town. And then, as we cleared up, we just couldn't resist a few more anecdotes. After all, which insomniac would ever rather go home for a good night's sleep?!