If the doors of the imposing Grade II listed Easton Methodist Church were kept closed, passers-by on the local high street would miss all that goes on inside throughout the week.
So, says minister Chris Briggs,
We have the doors open.
That way, the residents of Easton, a semi-rural town on the Portland peninsula, can know that the church is there for them, whether it is open for a service on Sundays or a coffee morning during the week.
An event on Friday mornings has integrated the church’s offering of both community and gentle evangelism since early 2005. A café opens for one and a half hours from ten o’clock in an alcove in the large church premises. It serves speciality drinks and simple food at waited tables laid with cloths and flowers. Background music is Christian, but – Chris says – this probably helps to create ambience more than carrying a deep message.
Because we are waiting on people, they are greeted, and so are gathered up in a welcome,
We try to make it obvious – there is a big banner outside reading ‘Café Church’.
The idea is to indicate that elements of both ‘church’ and ‘café’ are present at the same time.
Those who visit Café Church come from a variety of churches on the island and from none. Up to a quarter of those attending can be from no church.
Team members sit at the café tables ready to chat and talk, and Christian literature is on each table, including perhaps a short printed liturgy for one of the ‘God slots’ which punctuate the morning.
Everyone quietens and listens,
The idea is to provide food for thought.
Alongside the café is a chapel area created by use of screens. Within is a candle gate, a prayer board and an open Bible.
Spontaneously people go off in twos and threes and pray for one another,
Sometimes the chapel area is well used, sometimes we wonder whether anyone has been in there at all, but there is usually evidence that someone has.
Lighting candles and pinning notes on a prayer board can be a non-threatening way of offering prayer. Both churchgoers and non-churchgoers use the chapel area.
Chris describes Café Church as containing
elements of church in itself. For many it is a time of fellowship,
Once in the doors, people find a warm and welcoming community, while the Christian element, though obvious, is not heavy.
By drawing its separate offerings of coffee mornings and church services together in one weekly ‘Café Church’, up to 40 local people are finding that the doors of the church are open for them.