Celebrating Illuminate Soho

This month (September 2021) marks 3 years since we launched Illuminate Soho, our ministry of chaplaincy to those working in strip clubs.  We asked Ellie Barrett, our current Strip Club Chaplain, to share how this work has adapted during the challenges of the last 18 months:

“Since it began, Illuminate Soho has always been a pioneering ministry. At each stage of its growth over the past few years we have reacted and adapted to reflect what is happening around us and what we have learned along the way. Before COVID-19 lockdowns, our main focus was visiting strip clubs once a week to offer support, a listening ear and prayer to the women we met. We have been able to speak to and pray with many wonderful people, and through consistent visits relationships were growing and developing over time. One of our main prayer points was looking at a strategy to offer support outside of the clubs, deepening relationships and building one on one connections.

            As lockdowns loomed and clubs closed their doors, God answered our prayer in a way we did not expect. Suddenly our only option was to offer connection and support to those we had been in contact with in an online space. In a time where challenges with mental health, unemployment and loneliness are rife, the need for support, community and chaplains being present in third spaces has increased. As we have come alongside people in this season, I have learned that for many, knowing there is a safe space which you can reach out to is just as powerful as the act of reaching out. It was always our goal to be a consistent presence, offering love and support to those we encounter. As the third space we are reaching had moved online, our goal hadn’t changed; it just looked different.

One thing I noticed through conversations and the prayer requests we received, was how many women were struggling with direction and motivation. During difficult times it can be harder to dream, and seeing the way forward often becomes a greater challenge. As well as offering a safe space to chat we decided it was also important to provide an opportunity to combat feelings of hopelessness and propel people into the next season of their lives. This led to a wonderful partnership with Debbie Goddard (a coach with Destiny Coaching Ministries) and running a Destiny Activator course. Her prior experience as a prison chaplain and her passion to help every single person discover their God-given value, identity and purpose made the journey of adapting this course to a third space context deeply transformative for those who attended. 

We have loved being able to help those attending discover their identity in God, their unique life purpose and how to turn dreams and life goals into reality. It has been a wonderful opportunity to combine practical tools and biblical truths in a way which is safe and accessible through sessions in learning to dream, hearing from God, overcoming fear, and setting effective goals. We hope and pray that in offering this tool we have equipped and empowered the women who attended to find fresh hope in their current circumstances and to get excited to dream about the bright future ahead of them.”