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Hallo again to all.

A few weeks ago we were told of a gathering of over a hundred people in an unfinished room in a rather trendy part of a mid-sized city. The diocesan bishop led a worship service there, including a Eucharist and a blessing of the space. That space is soon to become a combined coffee shop and church (complete with its own vicar and deacon). After the service, the dual role was further evident: were the coffee and biscuits served after-church fare or coffee-shop fare? Yes. This location, named the Abbey, is expected to open this autumn, and will be both a coffee shop and home to Eucharists, meetings, and 'purple Thursdays' during which one of the bishops will be in the Abbey. A 'chapel' of sorts of a larger church in the area, The Abbey hopes to engage a different audience.

Also an outgrowth of an established church, The Church on the Corner in London finds its home in a converted pub. While the unique space and contemporary worship surely seems foreign to many of our notions and expectations of Anglican worship, they have developed a community by finding people where they are. The pub church movement appeals to both those already attending traditional church services and to others who do not: it brings church to a place where a mix of people, non church-goers and Sunday regulars, gather.

Messy Church is a ministry in the UK that brings people to God through play. They describe themselves as 'a way of being church for families and others based around welcome, crafts and art, celebration and eating together. It meets at a time and in a place to suit people who don't belong to Sunday church. It's built around and continues to develop around the needs of people on the fringe.'

Meeting people where they are and finding people on the fringe seems to be the common thread among these church plants. We suppose this is not atypical in the history of the church. Jesus found his disciples not in the synagogues but among fishing boats, and he preached in public squares, so why should the church not make itself similarly accessible? We do find, however, that there must be something that defines these gatherings as 'church' rather than simply people gathering to chat about God—movements like Theology on Tap and Jesus on Tap, which often gather in pubs to discuss issues of faith but are typically outreaches of other churches or are ecumenical gatherings.

In the forward to the 2004 Mission-Shaped Church Report of the Church of England Dr. Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury wrote on the topic:

If 'church' is what happens when people encounter the Risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter in their encounter with each other, there is plenty of theological room for diversity of rhythm and style, so long as we have ways of identifying the same living Christ at the heart of every expression of Christian life in common.

It may feel a bit like this 'diversity of rhythm and style' yields a visage that many of us struggle to recognize as church—much less church in the Anglican tradition. We often find ourselves drawn to historic buildings, pipe organs, candles, processions, incense and the English choral tradition—a style uniquely Anglican in much of the Communion. Sometimes we find ourselves struggling to make room for these different forms of worship that are based around reaching people where they are.

Whether in a coffee shop or pub, laundromat, campground or cathedral, we look forward to meeting our risen Lord face to face each week in the Eucharist.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

3 August 2014



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