The Hub spoke to Colette Bewley about Upper Reaches, a gathering of Christians who work in or near Temple Quay in Bristol.
About 17,000 people work in Temple Quay, a business development in the centre of a triangle of floating harbour, dual carriageway and the busy Bristol railway station.
Colette started the charity Upper Reaches in 2013 with a vision to connect, encourage and support Christians in their workplaces and reach out to those who don’t know Jesus. “I was the director at a law firm and I felt God challenging me about whole life and workplace discipleship. It was seven years later that I stepped out in faith to create a prayer space in Temple Quay for retreat, reflection and connection.”
“It was extremely difficult to find a suitable meeting space in the area,” Colette said. “There aren’t any neutral spaces to meet for prayer and fellowship that aren’t cafes or restaurants or require visitors to sign into a building.”
“I started exploring the idea of using a boat and found there was one single mooring in the harbour no one wanted because it was right under a bridge.”
“I went to visit St Peter’s barge at Canary Wharf and started applying for grants and trying to raise the money for our own barge. I had no support network and after years of trying to fundraise, I was ready to walk away because there was no engagement from the Christian community. Then someone suggested I get in contact with Julian Marsh and I started going to CPI meetings. It was so encouraging to meet people on similar journeys of waiting on the Lord and it helped me to keep going.”
“Out of the blue, a prophet called with a vision of me at Canary Wharf buying a boat and within four weeks God released the money and I had the donation I needed to get funds together before the time limit expired on the other grants. It was an extremely challenging and faith-building time.”
The barge arrived on 30 March 2017, with the official launch in September after the barge was furnished with its tables, couches and wood burner, ready to use.
“We are slowly growing and going in the right direction, but it’s been difficult to find Christians outside the church context. The boat has a capacity for 40 people and we see up to ten at our weekly prayer meetings. Some people come and have their lunch with us on the barge at the weekly drop in.”
“We just go with however many people God provides as volunteers,” she said. “We want to be a ministry that walks, stops, listens and rests. We value people, not what they can do for us. I have been running a core discipleship group of four to five committed people. Then
we have eight-ten regular helpers at the barge who we know through existing church and work relationships and who have a connection with Temple Quay, and a pool of around 25 people we can call on if we’re running an event.”
Colette says it can be difficult to see what God is up to in the moment. “We didn’t have any success when we tried running Alpha but we had 24 hours of prayer before Christmas and we are currently planning for Easter and Lent. We are preparing a Lent reflection once a week, a Passover meal and a life-size cross draped in red ribbon Maundy Thursday, changing to white ribbon on Tuesday where people will see the colours change from the bridge. We are just waiting on the Lord and being open to what he wants to do in Temple Quay.”
Colette works two days a week as a Financial Ombudsman and fits time at the barge around her husband and two grown children.
“Through this whole experience I have learnt to try something and be faithful but to gracefully put it down into God’s hands and see Him provide. It’s about getting involved in what God is doing.”
Find out more about what Upper Reaches are doing at upperreaches.org.uk