Wednesday, 31 July 2013

An interactive encounter

Just over two weeks ago, the Rector@6 and I were invited to supper by 'the upper home group' in one of the parishes. There are two house groups in this village - 'the upper' and the 'lower' groups! This bears no relationship to their churchmanship or academic status (or at least I don't think so!!), it is simply due to their geographical location. One is situated at the top of the village and the other is at the bottom end of the main street. This is the village that has the biannual 18th century street fair and where the Rector and his missus made their entry (see last blog).

We have learned that there is no such thing as a free supper when you come from the Rectory and usually the conversation turns to church matters. The Rector@6 has learned to take his wine slowly, in order to be able to respond to the conversations thoughtfully. The evening was delightful and we were able to sit outside and get to know this group. There was a buzz and this was a group who really seemed to be engaging with their beliefs but we hardly saw some of them in church because of the Rector@6 being rostered to go to other benefice churches.

The conversation turned to the street fair and one member commented that her daughter had seen palm readers, magic shows and fortune tellers but, even inside the church, there appeared to be no Christian representation at the fair in the previous years. Many people went inside the church to listen to the live musical performances and then left - perhaps unaware that it was actually a working church and not a concert hall. This year there was a new space in the South Aisle that had been beautifully converted to make a meeting room with kitchen facilities. As yet, -  no fair group had claimed that space. So there it was - that was the challenge to create a space (for God).

I had seen some amazing interactive prayer stations in a church in Cromer in Norfolk, when we were on holiday last year. I had watched the holidaymakers come in and engage with each area - people were able to be still, to reflect in this sacred space and engage in activities that would focus their prayers and thoughts on different areas. There were so many brilliant ideas. I took loads of  photos - with no idea of when they might come in handy again. I have to say - I have felt that God has been placing projects into my hands since we have been here. When we arrived in this benefice, I had felt the need to have some type of reflective space at each of the regular coffee shops that we have in three of our churches. Nothing too threatening but just to remind people that they were not in a village hall and that they were actually in the village church. The Rector@6 had put out a request for noticeboards but they had not been forth coming, so I accepted my timing was wrong and I couldn't do it on my own - anyway, I was the incomer!
Suddenly, with a couple of weeks to go, there was the opportunity and a group of people who were going to make it happen. I just had to share the photographs from Norfolk. It was like lighting the blue touch paper!
It was great to see people become enthused and help in any way they could. The South Aisle was transformed by fair day. A trail of footprints was stuck to the floor and people were encouraged to follow the footprints to see where they took them to. They were encouraged to write one thing that they were thankful for on a sticky note and stick it on the glass doors and ask a big question to God and peg it up.
We had a soft seating area where people could sit and chat or be still or read. There was colourful bunting hung from the ceiling.We had prayer trees, 'making tables' where Icthus symbols could be decorated and added to the net hung from the ceiling. You could help yourself to water from the tap and think about those that didn't have access to clean water. Prayers for different places in the world were written on luggage labels and pins were placed on the map to locate where the focus was. A homemade quilt decorated the walls (covering the large TV screen) and its comforting message was explained. People engaged with the very recent news stories that were made up into a collage. It was great to just sit, watch and listen. Sometimes the room was busy and buzzing with people, other times it was empty or just a couple were sitting talking. The Rector@6 and I popped in and out as this was an unmanned event this year - everyone had been allocated street fair jobs by the time this idea was thought of!

What now? People have been enthused and liked the space being used differently. The Rector@6 used the prayers and big questions in the service the next day - the Gospel reading being Luke 11, 1 - 13. I am now finding out more about interactive displays. SGM lifewords have very interesting pages on 'using traditional buildings for creative mission'. 'Space encounters' is such a brilliant title. Let's hope that others are inspired and we can bring these churches alive!


  1. I never cease to be amazed by the things which happen in your churches. They seem such interesting places!

    Please drop by and visit th Bear sometime.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

  2. What a great development. I'm glad that it's all going well. Jx

  3. Fantastic, Harriet! What a brilliant idea. :-) I'm really glad it went so well and think it's so worth pursuing in the future. Well done.