Radical Church bus helps reach people on the margins
Members of Radical Church have refurbished a double decker bus to use for Christian outreach on the streets of Norwich. Church leader Matt Richards says that people’s lives are being totally transformed as they encounter Jesus. Helen Baldry reports.
The bright blue bus emblazoned with images of a cross and people worshiping was totally unmissable, as were the throng of people dancing outside it in blue hoodies with lettering spelling out ‘It’s all about Jesus’. The bus was parked outside The Forum in Norwich for the recent ecumenical gathering ‘Celebrate’ and people were invited to step on board, enjoy some refreshments and find out more about Radical Church. The church is making an impact in the city, particularly amongst people often considered to be on the margins of society, including homeless people, drug addicts and isolated teenagers.
“God is into broken messed up people,” said Matt, “People are searching for spiritual things. They need to encounter the power of God and be delivered from demons.”
The bus project has been two years in the making and Matt describes the vision for the bus as ‘church on wheels’. The slogan for the project is ‘Church on the street. Hope on the bus’. Originally a decommissioned Stagecoach vehicle from Kent, the bus had been half-finished as a means of Christian outreach in Great Yarmouth and Radical Church inherited it half done.
Matt said, “Some wonderful people put a lot of effort in but never finished it. When we took it, it needed love.” The bus was in a poor condition; it broke down and suffered a diesel spill on the way from Great Yarmouth to Hellesdon.
Restoring the bus was a labour of love for Radical Church member Maria who arranged for much of the work to be done, including the installation of a safety floor, respraying and new seats. A future plan is to have a cinema on the bus so can Billy Graham films can be screened.
Driver Ken takes the bus to Chapelfield Gardens every week, where people are offered hot drinks and to come on board the bus for a church service for an hour, which involves a talk, singing, stories, and prayer.
Matt is adamant that the bus doesn’t need to be equipped with things like a Playstation to attract teenagers; what teenagers need is what he calls the ‘hardcore gospel’. Matt said, “God turns up” and he has numerous stories of people who have had their lives transformed by an encounter with God on the bus.
Radical Church have taken the bus further afield: they attended the First Light festival in Lowestoft, which celebrated the midsummer weekend at the most easterly point in the country. Matt said, “It’s a new age festival, but we preached the gospel. The demonic was massive but we believe in the power of the gospel.” Matt intends to take the bus across Norfolk and reach out to people living in villages with the invitation to come onto the bus for a service.
A big focus of Radical Church is on teaching. Matt encourages people to bring their friends and to start praying for them. He runs discipleship courses for new Christians. Radical Church baptises people in a recycling bin – the easiest thing to hand that can do the job of full immersion and it is a wonderful symbolism of being transformed into new life.
The story board on the side of the bus depicts many of Radical Church members’ experiences – it shows a person feeling messed up, crying out to God, laying their fears and failures on the cross then finally embracing Jesus.
Radical Church actively sets out to be a church for the marginalised, and the people they seek to serve do not live conventional lifestyles; they are out on the streets, and in parks at night, and having the bus enables the church to offer a place of shelter and welcome as they talk to people.
Picture above are Matt Richards and Radical Church members with the Hope bus at the Forum in Norwich during the Celebrate Norfolk event. Image by Kevin Gotts.