When Christians in Hinckley decided they needed a viable alternative to traditional church, they decided to try something completely different. Now a school and a local pub are the places where people come to worship and to learn. Tim Lea explains more.
The sort of people who come to The Bridge and are attracted by what we do and the way we do The Bridge, are folks who perhaps don't have any contact with church at all. There's a growing percentage of the population which fit that category.
The Bridge's worship time does take place on a Sunday, between the hours of 5 and 7. People will often come and they are surprised by how traditional it can be. We do make use of worship songs and we make use of what we call performance or presentation songs – it will involve the children right at the very beginning which often can be pretty wacky and pretty lively, they then leave for their own activities and we go into a time where we begin to look at a particular issue and focus on what the bible might be saying about something.
That is only the tip of the iceberg and what goes on underneath, the remaining 90% of the iceberg, is really important.
The Bridge started off by doing some research, some door to door work right at the very beginning, to actually find out what people thought, what they expected. So one of the reasons we meet on a Sunday, in a school, at 5pm, is that people in the local community thought that that would be a better time to meet.
We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams by the Hinckley Methodist Circuit and its commitment to The Bridge, not only in terms of finances but also in terms of staffing.
We've been involved in running an Alpha course at the local pub and I've always dreamed of standing at the start of an Alpha course with a pint in my hand and saying it's good to see you here, I hope that over the next few weeks we will begin to explore some of the things that we believe about Christianity and what it has to say about the world we live in. So for me it was perfectly natural!
It's not possible for everybody to get to know what they need to know in 40-50 minutes on a Sunday, I think that's just unrealistic and an unhelpful model of what church is. I think it's far more realistic to begin to form a small group and to begin to thrash out some of the ideas, some of the teachings which Christ gave to us.
The danger is that we live with a model of church that means it runs parallel to society and the way society runs, whereas actually I would rather encourage people to be involved in society and be part of society and to live out their Christian faith in society.
People sometimes ask, where does your church meet? When people now ask me that question I will think about the social worker who perhaps will be dealing with a very difficult child on a Wednesday afternoon, the person who is a gardener… there is no divide between what we claim to practice on a Sunday and what we live out during the rest of the week.
For anyone who wanted to set up something like The Bridge in their town, I would say just keep it simple and laid back and eat together, talk together, pray together… I would encourage people to dream because I think that God is a God of adventure and he loves to see people who are Christians, who are followers of him, taking a risk and daring to do something different – because I'm sure that in many ways he's got a smile on his face when he sees us. OK we've made mistakes, we've got dirty, muddy, disillusioned and fed up, but I know that I'd rather stand before God when the final day comes and say 'I tried', than to have sat and been comfortable and to have never tried in the first place.