How a café church run by Church Army Evangelist and her dedicated team is changing the face of a Yorkshire village
When you walk into the church hall at All Saints church in Hunmanby on a Sunday morning, you’ll see mothers sitting at tables sipping coffees and chatting, children getting creative with arts and older people enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.
This is café church.
Shena, a single mother of two, started it last year after noticing that 20 to 30-year-olds in the area, especially those with young children, were not attending church. Shena’s answer to this was to start an informal church service where young children could run around and make a lot of noise, and where adults of little or no faith could meet and explore the Christian faith in a new way.
“I think that young adults are not used to the culture of a formal church service,” says Shena. “They enjoy an interactive journey with spiritual links; it's more of a natural way to engage with lifestyle issues – not a style on offer in most traditional services.”
Café church is located in a typical English country village near the community centre and library. It is a warm and comfortable setting for informal church. There are no pulpits, altar rails or religious symbols. Café church opens its doors to everyone.
This non-traditional approach to church is important for the villages of Hunmanby and Muston, a rural area about a mile from the sea. The families based there reflect modern life – you’ll find single young mothers, grandparents who take on the role of raising their grandchildren and other styles of family groups.
Café church allows Shena to take bits of the traditional approach to faith and present them in a new way, so people are able to explore and have an adventure with God.
“I think café culture is very important to contemporary society,” says Shena. “We’re all used to ordering coffees when we go out and we enjoy the quality of that environment as well as the drink, so it’s something that I think people feel very comfortable with.
“Being a parent myself, I see that family life is about sharing space but using different parts of it in different ways. So in café church, we stay together and we do different things in the same space.
“I feel that it’s really important that the adults relax because their children are easily within eyeshot and earshot if there is a problem. It’s a more organic way to be.”
The monthly café church meetings are attended by around 40 people (usually about 25 children and 15 adults). A typical session begins with a welcome and chat over coffee/juice and home-made cake.
The members then have a look at some pictures and choose which one most represents how they are feeling at that moment. Shena says this helps people to get in touch with their immediate feelings and centre their thoughts on the here and now.
The day proceeds with a range of creative activities for children while adults watch a Nooma DVD on a Christian theme. Shena believes that café church is meeting a need and is engaging spiritually with people.
The sessions not only provide a space for people to discover God’s plans and purposes for them and the world, but also give them an opportunity to deepen their experience of the wider community. “My role as a Church Army officer is to be out and about in the community,” says Shena. “More than anything it’s to be with people and to share God’s love, starting not from my agenda but from where [they] are.
“For example, the man who came to set up the amplifier. He doesn’t have a faith as such, but he wants to help the community and he’s got lots of equipment. He came because he wants to share it with the community. I think part of my role is to let people be themselves, to bring what they have to offer and to use that to the best of my ability to glorify God.”
Stacey, a young mum, loves it: “I have been coming to café church since it started and every time I have been extremely moved and inspired. Each film we have seen has given me a new perspective on God and my love and relationship with him and as a result I feel stronger and wholly more positive, especially through difficult times. I have a real sense of being supported, nurtured and protected.”
Shena adds: “It is about doing exactly what Jesus would do if he were walking among us today. It is about meeting people where they are and showing them the love of God in a way they can relate to. We all have a great time and learn more about faith along the journey we take together.”
Pray for café church
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