Plans for a cafechurch came about through Churches Together in Heathfield and District, East Sussex. Follow their journey as they prepare for 'opening night' on Friday 26th April 2013.
It was a coming together of ideas when a Costa Coffee shop opened in Heathfield High Street and cafechurch network advertised a training day in the area.
Members of the 12 churches represented in Churches Together in Heathfield and District wanted to find out more about what might be possible as a result of these two 'coincidental' events. Three people attended the Network's training day last year and were inspired to look at building on what had already been happening in the community.
Five years previously, Churches Together in Heathfield and District had set up a Street Pastors initiative under the auspices of the Ascension Trust which initiated the national Street Pastor movement. The small town does not have late night bars or clubs but it was suffering increased levels of vandalism. Street Pastors started to be available in and around the town's car parks, skate park, playgrounds and streets from early evenings on Fridays. They built up good relationships with the teenagers and young adults they came across and started to ask, 'but what happens next? How can we reach these people we wouldn't normally reach from our own church settings?'
The cafechurch is now seen as the next move in these ongoing relationships with individuals – and the wider community.
In November 2012, 130 people attended a Churches Together supper at the Beehive pub, Heathfield, when Sue Mumford – one of the cafechurch planning group – spoke about the vision surrounding its launch. More than 20 people signed up to be involved.
The cafechurch is focusing on attracting 18 to 35-year-olds though all ages will be welcome if they are looking to engage with a new form of church.
Sue Mumford says,
Heathfield is a lovely town but there is very little for teenagers to do here and our churches are sadly lacking in young people. We realised that it was right to try and go to them rather than sit back and hope they would come to us. We have listened to what they have told us and – through prayer – we believe it's right for us to step out in faith in this way.
We have no idea what will happen but we just have to make a start.
Keith Miller, another of the planning group, adds,
If you have never been involved in church, going into a church building is quite an ordeal. A coffee shop, on the other hand, is a very familiar, very safe, very relaxed environment. This may provide a step towards church – or it may not. It may lead to a new way of doing church or it may fade away. We'll have to wait and see.
We are fortunate to have several, very good independent coffee shops in the town,
comments George Dearsley, Vice-Moderator of Churches Together in Heathfield and District,
but they were a little too small for what was needed to get this off the ground. We have already seen that the teenagers and young adults are accustomed to going to Costa – but, personally, we'll certainly continue to make good use of all of the coffee shops in Heathfield.
A coordinator provides prayer backing, both in the development of prayer partners in each of the link churches involved and on site. A 'dress rehearsal' for young people from local churches was held last week in order to give the planning group an idea of timings and practicalities.
Friday's session will run from 7pm (for 7.30pm start) until 9pm. Watch this space…