The Lounge at Costa in Woodbridge, Suffolk, has changed 'shape' in recent months since it featured on expressions: making a difference. What does it mean for the future? Dave Gardner, vicar of St John's, Woodbridge, explains more.
The Lounge – based in Costa Coffee at Woodbridge, Suffolk – was not planned as a fresh expression of church but it came about as a result of the relationships that St John's had developed over the years with Costa staff.
It was a great success as it developed. People came and the events were of a good quality but then it became clear that many of those visitors were Christians fed up with their traditional churches. They wanted a community that seemed less structured and distant from the established church, even though The Lounge was born out of – and accountable to – a 'traditional' church.
During the Autumn of 2010 there were no meetings at Costa as we had no leadership in place to take on the work and we were also using J John's Just 10 series adapted for use in our congregations at 9am, 11am and especially at 7pm (Café Church). We let the Lounge take a break as it is sometimes right to cease or at least pause a ministry to allow the right time for it to be reborn in the Lord's timing.
The Just 10 series was strongly evangelistic and it is the Café Church Team that often provides the seedbed for a lot of the missional activity of St John's. At the end of the Just 10 series we felt it right to put on Alpha@Costa starting in January; two things were very important to that – relationships with the staff and seeking to listen rather than impose. The key person has been the assistant manager and she has recommitted her life to Christ and started to attend one of our congregations on a regular basis.
It was really exciting doing Alpha at Costa as various people would wander in alongside a core who attended most sessions. It was particularly pleasing to have some older teenagers attend. An important step we took was to have a very small tight team and to say to the rest of the Church not to come unless the person they invited would only come if they did. As a reasonable sized church for our area we can easily fill Costa with Christians so we had to be very clear about this!
A number made a prayer of commitment and recommitment (including the assistant manager) and out of these we had two baptisms and three confirmations in May. These took place at Café Church in St John's but the baptisms were outside in a birthing pool. The style was very contemporary and the church was absolutely packed. Since then there has been a small group meeting with one of the Alpha group leaders.
At the end of this month, on Sunday 28 August at 5pm we are having our first open 'The Lounge' which will include jazz music, DVD, short testimony and lots of relationship building. It is too early to call this a missional community and a couple from the Church is considering the possibility of taking on the leadership of The Lounge or whatever emerges. We also hope that some of those who were on the edge of Alpha@Costa might come along. We might even consider another Alpha course if that is what is required! These are exciting days. 'The Lounge' might become a pilot missional community but once again we are seeking to listen rather than impose.
We also have a men's group called men@stjohns but this too is in the very early stages of development and has been birthed out of another initiative using John Eldridge's 'Fathered by God' course. We are hoping this will become more missional and are currently looking to hold this in a non church venue – at the local wildlife centre – where we ran the course previously. It is a monthly community where men can gather and build relationships with each other and consider what it means to be a Christian man in the real world.