St Calixtus is a rural church in the small hamlet of Astley Abbotts just outside Bridgnorth in Shropshire. The church has a regular congregation of between 10 to 15 people. Judy Mondon, a PCC member and lay minister for over 15 years is a passionate local advocate for All-age types of worship. Speaking on behalf of all those involved in the church, Judy explains what they do.
“We knew we needed to try and make a change and were encouraged to take our first steps in January 2023. We set up and hosted our first café church which is a new expression of church providing a fresh alternative format. We have greatly appreciated the encouragement and support we receive from Mark Melluish, the Diocesan Mission Enabler.”
The café church format allows a more relaxed style and opportunity for people to meet up, eat together and discuss life issues from a Christian standpoint.
The initiative which has continued to run for over 12 months has helped to break down barriers. We are welcoming new people, including families, who don’t typically attend traditional church services” explains Judy.
"We have been delighted to welcome on average nearly 30 people to each meeting. This includes new people who live in the local community but who do not regularly attend a Sunday service in our Church building. One gentleman who comes regularly, finds it difficult to access our church building. Holding café church at the Village Hall has meant he has been able to attend as the access is wheelchair friendly. explains Judy.
At café church, attendees gather in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. She goes on to add: “Seated around tables instead of in rows, we drink tea and coffee, eat croissants and bacon butties.
This format helps foster more of a community connection. The strap line we use to advertise our café church meeting always asks people to ‘take a fresh look’. We choose a different topic to discuss through the lens of Christian teachings each time.”
Reflecting on the success and future aspirations of café church, Judy notes: "Our hope is that we see a growing desire among those who come to explore faith and ultimately make a firm commitment to follow Christ.
The impact of café church goes beyond the established format and attendees are being invited to explore their faith further. "We have already seen some people attending other church services, having first attended café church," observes Judy.
Looking ahead, café church is now a regular fixture on the church calendar at St Calixtus, it is held every other month. Judy concludes: “We are focused on nurturing the spiritual growth we’ve seen and are planning a Bible Study course and home group for this year. We want to encourage those seeking to delve deeper into their faith and whilst we’re not yet sure exactly what that might look like, we are excited about the potential it holds.
St Calixtus welcomes everyone to come and join the next café church where the blend of spirituality, community, and bacon butties is helping build faith.