We started doing Cafe Church about a year ago. It happens monthly and is an early start at 9.30am. We have coffee and bacon rolls and other breakfast things. The first half an hour is just catching up and then at 10 we start, well I don’t want to say “start the service” but we do have most of the traditional components but we do them in a different and informal way
It’s been successful. Most of the people who would come to the normal church service come to cafe church. It is in the village hall and there is something important about it not being in the church. We have one or two people come who have not come into the church building before. We regularly get around 30 people and a lot of the locals have enjoyed the informality and the opportunity to talk about real, important things: To talk about their faith round the table.
We sing songs and they can be traditional or contemporary and that has led to some interesting conversation about what type of music helps people engage with God.
We pray, sometimes in a traditional style and sometimes more innovatively and interactively, perhaps using a prayer tree or spreading out the newspapers to connect with what is happening in the world.
Our bible readings tend to be contemplative, asking “what do you hear from these words, what are you prompted to think and do in response” – this often leads to lively chat. I don’t deliver a sermon, it is more about asking some questions or giving a few thoughts that lead to conversation, I might ask them to reflect on those things alone, then discuss on the table before perhaps feeding back to a whole room discussion.
I think there is more theological reflection going on at cafe church than I am aware of going on at traditional services. I am pleased that most people do come and even those in the congregation who are great supporters of very traditional forms of worship come along and have said they enjoy it and receive from it.
A few have come from the surrounding parishes and we get a full age range, the kids like the more relaxed approach. We have the hall set out in tables with paper tablecloths on them, we encourage everyone to doodle on the paper and perhaps write down questions the conversations prompt or jot down some thoughts.
I have been involved in lots of challenging conversation recently about maintaining church buildings and I have found myself saying that the places we see growth: the places God seems to be up to something are not in the traditional church buildings but elsewhere. Like our very busy and buzzing Messy Church in one of the linked parishes which also happens in the village hall. Perhaps people like “messy” church more than they like “clean and tidy” church. Life is messy at times!
It is encouraging and exciting to see where there is growth. We are changing not declining!