This is a sneak preview of one of the stories we've been sent for our WEBA edition of the Baptist Times. We asked for stories that illustrated mission 'inside' and 'outside' of the church. Sue Handy of Bourton-on-the-Water Baptist Church (which recently joined WEBA) sent us this story about the village that doesn't appear to have a church at all.
There aren’t many villages in the Cotswolds that don’t have a church, but Upper Rissington – a ‘new’ village that has been developed on a former RAF base not far from Bourton on the Water – is one of them. It has about 450 houses, a village hall, and a small shop, but there is no church building and no established Christian presence. Or so it appears. But come to the village hall on the first Sunday of the month and things might look a bit different.
Not that it looks much like church in the traditional sense, but with informally arranged tables and chairs, an area for smaller children to play, and a kitchen counter for serving refreshments, it has a welcoming feel. There are no hymns, no prayers, no sermon – just the smell of fresh coffee and grilled bacon, and the opportunity to chat with friends, read the Sunday newspapers, ponder the ‘Big Qs’, or join in board games and craft activities with the children.
This is Sunday Café, an ecumenical initiative run by CUR:ve (Church in Upper Rissington: valuing everyone) and supported by the local Anglican, Baptist and Methodist churches. It first opened its doors just over 4 years ago for a 3 month trial period, but the response was so encouraging that it has been providing a regular Christian witness in the village ever since.
The witness is very low-key. There is no formal ‘worship’ and no overt gospel message, although the morning usually ends with a visit from Scruffy – a mischievous puppy (puppet) with interesting things in his bag and some profound comments to make. But the 4 or 5 families who come regularly (and others who drift in and out) know that Sunday Café is run by people from the local churches.
Sunday Café is church in action – working outside of the church – just being there, making a difference in people’s lives, and hoping that one day they too will realise that it’s all about God.