The problem with being in a small parish is that you tend to assume that you will always be in the backwater. Having moaned that all the Deanery Events take place at the big two Churches [which is actually, when you think about it, quite sensible as they have seats for everyone, we were invited to celebrate on behalf of the Deanery for Ascension. I just assumed that, being Thursday, being Elson, no-one would turn up.
It was lovely to see St Thomas full to the brim with nearly 70 communicants! I thought I would arrive early and set up, and my youngest daughter had asked to serve, so I thought (what with the others frantically revising SATS and GCSEs) “why not?” People however were arriving at the same time as the both of us, and I think that the rest of the parish had just assumed it was a typical one, so there was a little bit of a logistics nightmare with getting the coffee sorted, and no liturgy on the screen – the PC known as the worship engine had died two weeks ago and we have just voted to replace it.
However, it all worked beautifully: Zoë was a marvelous server (at not even 8 years old!), the preaching went down okay (not every sermon has to have jokes, and this one – published here yesterday – was more about pause and atmosphere than entertainment). There were a few holy moments, and everyone it would appear wanted to stay for a decent coffee at the end. A good evening, and a good way to wave goodbye to Jesus as he disappears through the clouds (in the Ascension Chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, on the ceiling there is just his feet visible!). It was odd hearing people from other parts of Gosport describing how many years it has been since they have been to Elson, or how lost they got only coming from Stubbington, but that is what you get when you live, work and pray in a backwater like here. I quite love it, really.
Concurrently with that, I have made great programming progress with scary sounding technologies with impossible acronyms (XML, AJAX, Typo3). Most people who access this blog aren’t interested in such things, so I keep my geekyness to myself and just note that I am true genius, and should be respected as such. If this page is broken, it’s probably because I am working on extending what could create some dynamic and truely wonderful applications in typo3.
I love Lark News – it gets to the bottom of the cant and hype and plain silliness of Churchiana (and is where I got my wonderful YOU SUCK – WHICH IS WHY YOU NEED JESUS T-Shirt; I like it almost as must as I like the ASBO Jesus cartoons of Jon Birch, hat-tip to Fr Kenny for this one which might be a bit close to home round these parts…
DENVER — Connection Metro Church, which used its foyer coffee bars to attract visitors to its eight satellite churches in the Denver area, has decided to abandon ministry altogether to focus on coffee.
“People liked the coffee a lot better than the ministry, according to congregational surveys, so we’re practicing what we preached and focusing on our strengths,” says former teaching pastor and now chief marketing officer, Peter Brown.
Many in the congregation seem downright relieved.
“The sermons were okay, but the vanilla frappes were dynamite,” says one woman who regularly attended the church for two years so she could enjoy the special brews. “I even brought my Jewish neighbors and they loved them.”
The staff of Connection Metro Church began noticing last year that more money was coming in through the coffee bar than in the offering.
“People complimented us about the pastries and mochas but didn’t really mention the teaching,” says Brown. “After feeling disappointed, we got pragmatic about it and realized God was telling us where to put our efforts.”
The church renovated each of its locations into Connection Coffee Houses and removed most traces of its spiritual past. Now crowds are up and many former members are flourishing.
“Who knew I was so gifted at making foam?” says the former head usher, now the head barista, as he makes a heart-shaped design on a cappuccino.
The church’s small groups have been turned into neighborhood reading clubs, with some reading Christian titles and others following Oprah’s recommendations. The only visible remnants of the coffee house’s past are the offering bucket which serves as a tip jar, and the greeters stationed at the door to give a more welcoming feel than the nearby Starbucks.
Some former members were stunned to arrive at church Sunday morning to find the sanctuary transformed into a seating area with newspaper racks and coffee-themed gift items.
“I guess we’ll go back to the Methodist place,” said one father who had brought his family. “But only after we try those delicious looking chocolate cream-filled croissants.”
People in the surrounding neighborhoods say they are far more likely to stop by now. One man who came occasionally says he feels less guilty standing around the coffee counter now that there is no service taking place.
“Before, we had to sit through the service and pay our dues,” he says. “Now we go right to the good stuff — the double espressos.”
The staff also feels liberated now that the pressure of ministry is off.
“The best way to be relevant is to give people what they want,” says Brown. “In our case, that’s coffee drinks.”