S Norfolk villages turn Hope into Cafe Church
2011: Churches from five South Norfolk villages have turned their successful Hope ‘08 initiative into a thriving Café Church and are soon to welcome the Bishop of Thetford. Steven Halstead reports.
In 2008 a group of Christians from across the five villages of Carleton Rode, Bunwell, Tibenham, Gt. Moulton and Aslacton took up the ‘Hope’ initiative and began to organise events with the ‘Hope’ object of ‘showing God’s love in word and deed’. After several successful events we thought we would try an experiment with a Cafe style Church.
So in 2009 we held our first service in Bunwell Village Hall. The emphasis and focus of this service was to aim at people who have not yet committed themselves to Jesus or are new in the faith, presenting a contemporary style service which would have more appeal to young people and our target group.
Since the beginning, we have been careful to emphasise to the established churches, that this ‘Hope’ initiative, was in no way designed to be an alternative church, enticing away their congregations. Rather we hoped it would serve as a vehicle to introduce new people to regular church services, held throughout the benefice, every week.
Since the early days we have been holding regular monthly services and as time passed the Cafe Church has settled into a regular date of the third Sunday of every month, using the village halls of either Bunwell or Carleton Rode. The service is now attracting a mixed congregation of between 50 and 100 people with a large proportion of children, for which we give thanks. The morning service starts at 10am with a free breakfast with the service getting under way at 10.30am usually finishing about 11.30am.
Though our services are aimed at ‘new’ Christians or those ‘seeking’, we always strive to keep it ‘Bible-based’. We are blessed with a thriving music group, who specialize in the more modern, joyful, praise songs. The children usually have their own activity in the middle of the service, but this is not always the case as we do put on some, ‘all age’ services.
The breakfast and service is run entirely by members of the ‘Hope’ team, but we are very pleased to have the guidance and experience of our brother, Pastor Mark Taylor who has been a most staunch and enthusiastic member. We try to keep the style of service rather informal and not formulaic but generally in the middle, there is a talk or testimony and a reading.
On November 20 we had a visit from the Gospel Choir of the NYFC and they led our service. We had 115 people in our congregation for this service and the Gospel choir was very much appreciated by all who attended. The inspiration and promise for the future could be seen in the commitment of these enthusiastic, committed, young Christians.
One of our congregation, an 80-year-old committed Anglican, who was on her first visit to Cafe Church, was heard to say, “We need more services like this”. Also another gentleman said that when he first walked into the hall he was worried to see all the amps, loudspeakers and musical equipment. But he later said how much he had enjoyed the service and the singing and he recalled how the service reminded him of his involvement in the ‘new’ movement ‘Youth for Christ’, 55 years earlier in London - almost a founder member.
So we are immensely encouraged by the steady progress our Cafe Church is making. The Hope team has become a close family and we feel truly blessed to be part of this movement and look forward to what God has in store for us in the future.
Pictured above are the Cafe Church congregation.
Steven is Chairman of the Hope Team