A Café Church in Leeds will host what is believed to be the country's first ordination service within a fresh expression of church on Sunday (13th November) when Michelle Briggs is ordained priest in the University's Emmanuel Centre.
Michelle has worked as a Senior Research Fellow in the University's School of Healthcare since 2003 following completion of her PhD. She began ordination training in 2005, became a deacon in 2008 at Ripon Cathedral and was licensed in April 2010 to be an assistant chaplain at the University. This included involvement in the leadership team of Emmanuel Café Church which meets on Sundays from 5pm to 6.30pm during term time.
I wanted to go where I could be with people involved in workplace ministry. The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Rt Revd John Packer, suggested how to work out my curacy within a chaplaincy framework and Café Church has been a very enriching experience. It's a great way to do church.
The ordination service will be familiar in some ways but very different in others. Instead of an order of service there will be a 'menu' to indicate how and when people can take part in the ordination. It will be streamed as a live webcast with an opportunity for the virtual 'congregation' to join with those at the venue via live chat on Facebook.
The University's Anglican chaplain Matt Ward says,
It's exciting to have such a significant event as part of our fresh expression of church; deacons in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds are ordained in the cathedral but the ordination of priests takes place in the parishes where curates are serving – so in this case, it's Café Church!
We have thought long and hard about how to conduct what is traditionally a formal service in a way that remains true to our Café Church style. It's important that it's done correctly but I also wanted us to be connected to our community's unique culture so we basically broke down the service and put it back together again. It has to be accessible to quite a disparate group of people because there'll be non-Christian friends and colleagues who will want to come along.
Many Leeds graduates, now living away from the city in the UK and abroad, also want to be part of the special occasion. Matt says,
Some people have been with us for three years as members of Café Church. After graduating, they go back home or move on but remain part of the Café Church extended community. They told us they'd like to participate in the service in some way so we decided to do a live stream of the service and facilitate live chat via our Facebook group.
Parts of the service will be quite formal and front led but the Ministry of the Word is going to be done in Café Church style with some resources on tables to explore things there. People will also be able to 'sit' around an online table and when we get to the bit where those of us in Leeds are getting into discussions, one of our leaders will facilitate the online chat. Also, instead of having the litany prayers, people will contribute what they have been working on. This will include someone bringing forward their laptop and offering what the online community have come up with.
Discussion as to the 'dress code' – and many other issues – is continuing. Michelle says,
As is normal for Café Church, we will be having coffee and cake to kick things off from 5pm to 5.30pm so to have a fully robed procession at that stage would be incongruous! I'm having a clerical dress made for me so that I can be quite informal but still wear the collar.
I'm delighted that the service is being held within the Café Church. I know the term café church can certainly be stretched to cover all sorts of expressions of church but, to be honest, I'm not somebody in search of a label. The most important thing for me is never to be a stumbling block for people to come to Christ. Jesus tore the cloth of the Temple in two and we spend a lot of time in church sewing that back up again! If we embraced every way that Christians show Christ's light perhaps we wouldn't see the need to try and do that.