Solace - Wendy SandersonWendy Sanderson, Night Club Chaplain, Church Army Evangelist, Lay Pioneer Minister and co-founder of Solace tells the story of this unusual fresh expression of church in South Wales.

Two years ago, I co-founded Solace with James Karran, an assistant Baptist minister. Solace is a new form of church that meets weekly in a bar in central Cardiff on Sunday evenings.

Solace - Rowan WilliamsFrom the beginning we met a lot of people who were into clubbing who were interested in Jesus, God and faith but often, not traditional expressions of church. So we began on April Fools Day 2007 aiming at people who were searching for something. I am 32, and clubbing is part of my life, so Solace has grown out of our lives as clubbing people. On our launch night over one hundred people turned up, mostly I am sure out of curiosity, and now on Sundays we draw on approximately fifteen to twenty people a week. When the Archbishops of Canterbury and Wales came, of course numbers rocketed. We like guest speakers!!

In an attempt to make church accessible and relevant to clubbers, we broke it down into four different elements, which we do on four different Sundays a month. Each month we focus on a theme, and deliberately target difficult issues such as sex, relationships, debt and other issues that really matter to clubbers. The first Sunday each month tends to have a guest speaker and three of our regulars take a bible verse and say what they think about it with questions afterwards. On the second Sunday we have an entertainment night and people bring their friends. On the third Sunday we hold a debate night and recently looked at the issue of sweatshops and how we can be more active in the fight against exploitation. On the fourth Sunday, we have Agapé, based round the symbolism of Communion, and using the arts and other elements in an alternative worship style event enabling those attending to express themselves.

Solace - tablesWe engage with the de- and un-churched – in fact anyone who is interested in exploring faith. We have wanted to break down the negative stereotype that many hold concerning Christians and Church. Most of the other churches in the area are geared up to the needs of young families with children, but we are uncompromisingly focused on the many younger adults who are single. There are many, many single clubbers in their twenties and thirties who do not relate to forms of church which seem to over-focus on families. In many ways, Solace is a spiritual community, a society of friends where clubbing is an important part of our lives, and most of us are single. We are pleased that Solace has developed into a place of hope, a place of peace and safety. Some have said they value it as a place where you can be completely yourself and be accepted unconditionally and where people are non-judgmental.

Solace - logoWhen it comes to discipleship, we specifically work on a one-to-one basis, where the themes and discussions on Sunday nights encourage people to explore or re-imagine spiritual things. We allow people to challenge each other on Sunday nights, and encourage people to dig deep with the Christian faith and the stuff of life. This is learning about the faith through proactive engagement in activity. Something like an Alpha Course or Emmaus just would not work in a clubbing context.

We hope that people will increasingly explore the Christian faith starting where many are – a long way away from it. Through a strongly relational mission we hope that Solace will continue to grow a very strong community of people who 'are and who are not yet' Christian. We are also now looking for our own building, to house not only the Solace Sunday nights, but the many social outreach initiatives we have started, which need developing by having a permanent space.

Joe's Story

I’ve been a Christian for a number of years, but never fitted into 'traditional' church; feeling like an outsider and never quite connecting. This feeling of detachment has meant that I have undergone long period without attending Church. I felt disconnected from God, mainly because I was trying to be someone that I wasn't and it was just too hard emotionally to keep that level of pretense up for long periods. One of my closest friends felt the same way and so we decided to look for an alternative form of church.

In March 2008 we found Solace on the internet. The first meeting we went to, was discussing the issue of debt and making it relevant to my life! For once I found somewhere that made my faith relevant, with like minded people, who rather than judge, accepted me, flaws and all. The biggest and best difference Solace has made is that I am now a Christian 24:7 rather than just on Sundays or in front of other Christians. Solace is a place of acceptance and hope which makes my relationship with God relevant and effective, Solace is somewhere that my God given gifts are needed, used and developed for the glory of God and I will always be thankful to God for guiding me to it!