Who is the Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship?
Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship (TVBF) is a modern church based in the south of Northamptonshire. Our aim is to be “A vibrant church, expressing God’s heartbeat for the community”. We serve the Tove Valley region consisting of village communities, many of which once contained active Christian churches but no longer do so. In the late 1990s Helmdon and Weston Baptist church approached us, seeking our partnership and support. Our combined church now consists of two congregations; one in Weston and one in Towcester and shares a common vision under a common leadership. We have established a network of small, home-based groups of Christians in the villages without churches. Currently we have members in 16 villages in the Tove Valley. We sold our former premises on Watling Street in Towcester in 2001. The Towcester congregation currently meet in Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School.
As part of our aim to express God’s love for our community, we have a vision to build The Tove Valley Centre in Towcester on Northampton Road between the Shires estate and new SNC car park. It will be a new home for the Towcester congregation and a Christian resource for the whole Tove Valley area. By situating our church building at the heart of Towcester, we will be able to serve the people of the town and surrounding villages more effectively. The building will also be a resource available for hire by individuals, families, groups and organisations on a regular or occasional basis.
The Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship website is at tvbf.co.uk
At Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship, we firmly believe in working in partnership with local voluntary, community and statutory organisations. Representatives from TVBF attend relevant multi agency meetings including: South Northants Voluntary and Community Sector Forum, South Northants Council, Towcester Town Council, South Northants Homes Social Housing and Community Support, Towcester Youth Services and Churches Together in Towcester.
The results of our recent survey and consultation with partnership organisations identified the lack of locally based professional support and counselling services. Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship does not want to replace any of the professional services and organisations, but to support them and work in partnership, potentially signposting families and individuals to them. The Tove Valley Centre will provide a space from which such services can be delivered.
Some of the projects that Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship are involved in are described below. Once the Tove Valley Centre is established, we expect to be able to offer more to the local community.
Fish and Chip Supper
Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship has a small but committed group of volunteers who offer a monthly Fish and Chip lunch delivery scheme to residents of two sheltered housing schemes in Towcester. Orders are taken in advance and placed with a local fish shop. Volunteers then collect the order and deliver them to the residents. One group of residents prefer being together to eat their lunch in a communal area while the other group prefer eating alone.
Looking to the future…
In the past, the Baptist Church in Towcester has successfully run regular coffee mornings and monthly Luncheon Club both in Towcester and Weston. The Tove Valley Centre will enable us to re-establish these activities and to develop new groups for elderly and potentially isolated residents within and around Towcester.
Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship gives support to the local Food Bank through volunteering, donations, distribution and transporting food. In 2017 the Towcester Food Bank fed 1792 people compared to 1397 in 2016; an increase of over 20% in one year.
“Thank you for all the running around you do for the Foodbank. Often it is behind the scenes and no one else knows” - Towcester Foodbank.
Looking to the future…
Once the Tove Valley Centre is established, we will be able to offer people using the Foodbank additional help and support via our drop-in support services. This will include being a listening ear to someone who is struggling to cope, sign posting to appropriate support services and providing practical help and support to access the services.
Renew 169 Wellbeing Café
The Renew 169 Wellbeing Café is located at 169 Watling Street, Towcester. It is open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 1pm until 4pm. Anyone is welcome to drop in during these sessions.
“I get some relaxation time for myself socialising with other people who care and understand. It has given me somewhere to go on a regular basis and to make new friends and meet old ones. I am allowed to be who I am. If I’m low I feel better when I have been. Life becomes a better place and it gives my carer a breather.”
"Saturdads" takes place every 2nd and 4th Saturday with tea, coffee and toast for dads and their under 5's.
Once a month there is a parental well-being group including breastfeeding support.
"Chill, Chat and Cake" - a drop-in and chill session for teenagers in years 7,8 and 9 after school on Wednesdays. Come along to relax, perhaps play games, have a chat and eat cake for an hour before going home. All welcome.
"Energise" provides a space for men between 7pm and 9pm each Wednesday.
So how did this all begin?…..
The Renew Wellbeing model was established in 2015 by Ruth Rice in Nottingham as a not-for-profit venture to support anyone with mental health difficulties, after she experienced her own period of difficult mental health. Information about the Café model was given to Laura Patterson, Youth, Children and Families Team Leader at Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship (TVBF) in Towcester at the time. Contact was made with Ruth who recommended a visit to the Renew Wellbeing Café in Northampton which works effectively to support people in the community who have mental health issues.
A visit was also made to the original Café in Nottingham, which runs a community space next to a commercial Café and has run successfully for three years. Around twenty Cafés now operate under the same ‘franchise’ and more are being set up regularly. Ours is the first successful joint church (Churches Together in Towcester) venture and the first to be run in collaboration with volunteers from the community. Ruth Rice ran an initial training session on setting up a new Café, which included issues such as safeguarding and how to run a session. This was attended by twenty volunteers, from across the churches and community in and around Towcester, including those of faith or no faith.
Discussions then took place with a local landlord to secure a suitable venue for the Café. The landlord kindly provided 169 Watling St as a rent-free space initially, and the keys were obtained on 19th October 2018. Subsequently, funding has been secured in order to keep the Café running and a manager was appointed in late 2019 to ensure that the Café runs efficiently and continues to meet the needs of local people.
The Café is run on an open access basis, for those of no faith or any faith. There is a quiet space where ten minutes in every hour a short prayer or reflective time is offered on an optional basis for those that want to access it. Ruth has been surprised how those who have no faith enjoy this space to relax.
“We walk alone without someone to care…. but now I have found friends, a new family in a new place! Thank you all! Such a blessing – a safe place in a crazy world… wonderful people. SOMEONE KNOWS MY NAME!”
What is the aim of the Café?
The Café model is based on the 5 ways to Wellbeing model below.
Each renew space is run by a local church who give their time and share hobbies and skills in a homely welcoming space. The Renew Wellbeing team offer to be present alongside churches embarking on this journey. Ruth will meet with the leaders, the church and the mental health team to offer support while the renew space is established and will keep visiting to help sustain good practice.
Being in Partnership
As each Renew Space establishes good partnerships with statutory services so the Renew Wellbeing team offers to partner with each renew space by offering training, support and regular news. An annual gathering keeps links strong between Centres and helps us share good practice and resources. Renew Wellbeing also represents the renew movement in national conversations about faith communities partnering for better mental health provision.
As Each Renew space settles into a rhythm of quiet prayer and opens up these habits to their community so Renew Wellbeing will be praying for each renew space and with each renew space. Ruth will train and provide resources to each church where needed and the website will offer ongoing encouragement and advice for a shared journey of sustained prayerful habits for wellbeing.
An application for 100% reduction in business rates was submitted to SNC, 80% of which is applicable due to charitable status and 20% is discretionary. The venue required change of usage from A1 to A3, although the space is completely non-profit and will not qualify as a Café business.
Enhanced DBS checks are undertaken for all volunteers and training is provided.
At least one volunteer per session holds a Food Hygiene Certificate.
Landlord’s Building Insurance and Public Liability Insurance are in place and a Health and Safety Assessment and Risk Assessment were undertaken prior to operation.
Looking to the future…
There is great potential for the Café to be operating for longer hours, to have a kitchen installed and to be able to provide a greater range of food. This would enable more community groups to use the space and would be an asset to many in Towcester in a prominent high street location. The opportunities for the use of the Café as a community space are endless. The Café’s new manager has lots of ideas about new groups that could be offered, subject to sufficient volunteers being available. Information about any of the sessions already available, or what is being planned are available by popping into the Café whenever it is open.
“There’s support if it gets too much. Vicki is easy to talk to and my partner is happy to leave me knowing I will be ok. It is local to where I live, there is a friendly atmosphere. All ages are welcome and men too! It’s well run and a pleasure.”
Children & Young People
At Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship we regularly run activities for children and young people at Sunday morning services, weekday ‘Cell Groups’, and Youth Club on Friday evenings. In addition, on alternate Sunday evenings we offer a largely social evening for young people as well as a summer ‘Holiday Club’, a ‘Non-Halloween’ event in October, residential activity weekends and the opportunity to attend christian events such as ‘Soul Survivor’. At Christmas there is a ‘pop-up’ Nativity and Christingle Service at church as well as end of term parties on Sunday mornings. We also provide a Toddler Group as well as a Mums and Tots Bible Study Group each week. Details about when the groups meet and what they do are provided below.
All of our activities for children and young people are co-ordinated by Melanie Whitlock, our Youth, Children and Families’ Team Leader, who is ably supported by a team of dedicated volunteers. For more information about any of the groups or activities listed, please contact Melanie via the following link: Melanie Whitlock.
At Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship, we are conscious of the importance of working closely with other groups and organisations operating within the town and surrounding villages. To that end, our Youth, Children and Families Team Leader works very closely with other Youth Leaders within the area.
TVBF has developed a good relationship with local schools and supports the staff in Sponne (our local comprehensive school), such as by delivering a Lunch Club for Year 7 pupils and by helping to promote good mental health across all ages. We also attend assemblies at Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School and leads a Christingle Service there at Christmas. In order to help youngsters to make the transition into Year 7, Melanie does ‘moving up’ work with Year 6’s at Nicholas Hawksmoor, Towcester and Greens Norton Primary Schools.
On Sunday mornings, during the latter parts of the main services in both Towcester and Weston there is around an hour of interactive learning and sharing time for all children and young people. We use stories, creative work, activities, drama and games to build faith and an understanding of the things of God. This is principally achieved by discovering what the Bible says and relating this to the children’s lives.
In Towcester, when older children (pre-school to year 13) leave the main service to join their groups on Sunday mornings, toys are available in the reception area for parents who want to access a ‘self service’ crèche for the under 3’s. A speaker in the crèche area relays whatever is going on in the main service. However, parents are welcome to keep their children in church with them if that is their preference.
Youth Cell Groups
Midweek there are groups that are designed to help the youth get to know more about God, the Bible, the world and each other. The Youth Cells are led by young people with support from an adult leader and are for those in school years 7 and up.
The locations and times vary. Please contact Melanie Whitlock for more information about Youth Cells.
!st and 3rd Sundays 19.30 to 21.00 for Years 9 to 13. Please contact Melanie Whitlock for more information and venue details.
Youth Club meets on Friday evenings in term time, usually at the Renew Wellbeing Café in Towcester; occasionally at other venues around the town. All youngsters in school years 3-11 are very welcome to come along, regardless of whether or not they or their families attend church. Please contact Melanie Whitlock for details of where to meet.
Feedback that we have received shows that even the shyest child that comes along can soon be looking forward to Friday evenings and experience an increase in their self-confidence.
Youth Club is essentially social, although older children sometimes like to use activities such as trust and simulation games to introduce spiritual and moral issues. The main aim is to have fun whilst building relationships between young people as well as between the young people and the leaders.
Youth Club is ‘user led’ with ideas for activities being sourced from the young people, leaders and parents. Some young people take the opportunity to help out with groups, thereby helping to raise their self esteem and confidence. Others take this opportunity even further by attending a Young Leader Training Course, with the support of their Youth Club Leaders.
Parents, Grandparents and Tots Groups
Parents, grandparents, carers and childminders from Towcester and surrounding villages are welcome to attend either of these popular weekly groups with their pre-school children. They offer a safe place to meet, socialise, and to learn from and support each other. Children will also benefit from the opportunity to socialise whilst enjoying the activities and toys provided. Refreshments are provided for both adults and children.
"Wednesday Tots" meets in Towcester’s St John’s Ambulance Hall at 9.30am until 11am during term time with occasional ‘get togethers’ during the summer break.
"Mums and Tots" also meets on Wednesdays 10am until 11.30am at The Chapel in Weston.
Mums and Tots Bible Study Group
This group is designed for mums who want the opportunity to study and talk about the bible and how it relates to our lives, but usually find it difficult to attend due to having young children. The group meets on Thursdays at 1.30pm. Please contact Melanie Whitlock for more information.
Looking to the future….
The Tove Valley Centre will enable us to deliver our locally run groups and activities for children, young people and families much more effectively than at present and in an environment more suited to the needs of those groups. In addition, we expect that in time, we will be able to offer even more to families within our community.