Water into wine

Sarah and Josh really wanted to take us back to the Epiphany reading we’d missed (because we’d celebrated Candlemas a bit early) I have no idea why they were so keen to look at water into wine. As always the evening started with coffee and cake (thanks Kim for the amazing Korean rice cake) before Josh introduced the evening and pointed us to a set of cards on the table that guided us through the session.

img_4679The texts from the cards read:

Task 1 – Get into groups of 2 or 3. From memory, retell the story of Jesus turning water into wine (John 2). DON’T BE A CHEAT.

What do you think are the most important points? Write these on the flipchart paper on the wall.

The group I was with worked hard to remember the text. We hadimg_4681 some clear memories of the story but we struggled to get all the details spot on – we were a bit mean with the amount of water/wine involved and we did the chief steward out of a job! It was great seeing what others had remembered (and forgotten)

Task 2 – Read John 2:1-11. In your small group reflect on what you remembered from memory and what was actually said in the text. What do you think the main point of the text was?

Does your opinion of the text change after knowing the following…?

  • Weddings were sometimes a week long affair.
  • Running out of wine was a social faux-pas.
  • This was Jesus’ first miracle according to John.

We had a really interesting discussion about wedding traditions, social conventions, generosity. We were struck by the fact Jesus didn’t physically do anything – no touching or holding, or taking, blessing, breaking & giving. There were just instructions to the servants to do things.

Task 3 – As a whole group, let’s reflect on the following questions:

  • When telling each other the story from memory – what surprised you? What did you remember of forget?
  • What parts of the story stand out to you?
  • Does anything confuse you about the story?
  • Why is Jesus’ response to his mum surprising?
  • What does the story tell us?


img_4682Task 4 – On the first piece of flipchart paper, you wrote down what you thought the most important part of the reading was from memory.

On the second piece of flipchart paper – after reflecting – what do you think the most important part of the reading is now? Has your opinion changed?

We realised that a sense of compassion came through the story – those getting married were faced with public embarrassment because of their lack of wine budget. We also realised that we had all forgotten the final phrase  ‘the disciples believed in him’ and with it had fallen into the trap of enjoying the wine and not spotting the true purpose of its provision.

img_4685To finish our evening we were treated to a wine tasting – two red wines (a basic in a plastic bottle and something from a supermarket fine wine selection) were given out for us to taste. Most of us found it difficult to work out which wine was which. Maybe too much cake dulls the palate!

It’s been a while since we used ‘remembered Bible‘. I had forgotten how insightful it could be.


Salt & Light

After a few weeks of reflective Café Churches based around installations, Emma led us in some discussions this week. The text was Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus tells us we are the salt of  the earth and the light of the world. We reflected together on what on earth Jesus might mean by comparing us to salt. There were salt-wordseveral uses for salt back in the days when he was teaching – it was used to preserve food and keep it fresh and good; it was used to heal wounds and fight infection, a painful but necessary process; it was mixed in with fuel to keep fires burning for longer; and it was used to add flavour and interest to food. We found meaning in all of these in one way or another, and different things struck chords with different people. We reflected that our bodies have the same salt content as the sea – a good percentage of us physically is salt. And we also noticed that salt never can lose its saltiness – our call from God is inherent within us, a lifelong identity that we can never be separated from. Perhaps this is why Jesus doesn’t say ‘You can be the salt of the earth’ or ‘You should be the salt of the earth’ but simply ‘You are the salt of the earth’. Our identity is in the very fabric of our being, both physically and spiritually. The question is how we use it.

candleflamesWe spent some time in the chapel bringing candles in and placing them in the centre of the room for all to see. It only takes a small number of candles to light the room – we prayed for the places where we are needed to be light in the world, and that the small part we could play would make big differences to those around us.


After a Christmas break and a couple of weeks with exams and deadlines this felt like the first cafe church back. Vicky led us in thinking about Candlemas – the presentation of Christ in the Temple (she also made us a fantastic lemon cake!)

In the Chapel there were 4 stations set up. Each one led us to reflect about a different part of  the story of Jesus’ family visit to the temple and their encounter with Simeon and Anna. You can read the whole text here or in your Bible, Luke 2:22-40.


On a table was a large egg timer. There was a printout of the passage Luke 2:25-28 & 36-37. Next to it was the following text:img_4665

Simeon and Anna had been waiting for a very long time to see Jesus. Both kept returning to the temple day after day. Waiting. Longing.

Turn the egg timer over and watch the sand fall. How does it feel to watch and wait?

How many times are you prepared to turn the timer over? How long will you wait for God?

We sat and watched the sands pouring through the glass and waited. Some of us turned the timer over multiple times, others of us were just a little less patient.


In another corner of the Chapel was a laptop  that was connected to the rather marvellous tagul.com  The Bible text was  Luke 2: 22-24, the part of the story talking about the sacrifice that Mary came to make.

The instructions next to the laptop read:

Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple to make an offering for Mary’s purification after giving birth. They were too poor to offer a sheep (which was the usual offering) and so have to settle for a pair of birds instead.

Take some time to reflect on what you would like to be able to offer God, if you were able.

Now think about what you are able to offer to God.

Add one word to each word cloud on the laptop to represent your answer to each question.

As more words were added to the list the cloud slowly grew. By the end of the evening this is what they looked like.



The third station reflected on Luke 2:29-35, 38. There was a screen showing a Spontaneous busker….. The text next to the screen read:

Anna and Simeon both move and live in the Spirit. They hail the child. They are prophets. They are also aged people, probably frail and on the margins of society. But they are a rich source of wisdom.

We are surrounded by Simeons and Annas – people who have skills, talents and wisdom yet who often go unnoticed. Watch/listen to the video and reflect on those on the margins who might be able to give us a glimpse of God’s kingdom.

(This is a recording of local man, Bernard, filmed on New Year’s Eve in Leeds in 2015. He died in December 2016.)

The final station had a set of headphones. The text next to them read:

Luke 2:29-32

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

Having waited for so long, Simeon has finally found peace with Jesus’ arrival at the temple.

Listen to this recording of Simeon’s song and let it bring you peace.


After spending time exploring all the stations we then joined together to say evening prayer (following the Book of Common Prayer) taking time to enjoy the quiet sense of God’s presence at the end of the evening.

Stirring things up…

The final Sunday of the church year is the feast of Christ the King. It is also known as stir up Sunday after the opening words of the Prayer Book collect for the week ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen’

For our worship Sarah helped us explore the various themes linked with the week.

First we were offered some help to reflect on the year that was finishing. There were a selection of questions and prompts to get us thinking – ‘How has the past year been for you?’ , ‘Where has there been a lack of God’s presence?’, ‘What will you take forward with you next year’, How have you changed throughout the year’, ‘What will you leave behind’, ‘Where have you seen God this year’. Each one could have made for a whole evening’s worth of reflection and many of us spent a long time prayerfully reflecting on them.

Further into the chapel was a board with the text pinned to it. ‘Our collect today reminds us that it is ‘Stir up Sunday’ a Sunday synonymous with Christmas puddings. The great cry ‘stir up’ was a reminder to congregations to get the Christmas puddings made in plenty of time to mature before Christmas. An important addition to the mixture is a coin, who ever gets it on their plate on Christmas day should get worldly riches heaped upon them.’ People were asked to write what they would you wish for if they got the coin on Christmas day.

The next installation took the reflections on the collect to a deeper level. On the table were coloured glitter jars. [Sarah and Emma made the jars  – here are their instructions 1. Fill a jar with about half an inch of warm-hot water 2.Pour in all of a glitter glue pen (about 15ml) 3. Add glitter in matching or contrasting colours – as much as you like! 4. Shake it up until the glitter glue melts and mixes with the water, so there are no blobs left (make sure the lid is on tightly!) 5. Top it up with more warm water (not too much or it’ll be too thin and your glitter won’t float) and keep adding glitter until you’re happy with it]

We were invited to pray for God to stir up our wills as we shook the glitter jars and used their colours as a reflection and focus for our prayer.

The final installation asked us to reflect on the gospel reading Matthew 25:31-46 – the story of the sheep and the goats. Again, there was a short reading to help us with our prayer and reflection.


After we had all spent time reflecting we returned to out coffee and cake. conversation flowed as we talked about how we understand Christ’s kingship and how we make sense of judgement.

A new term begins….

This term at Cafe Church we’ve decided it’s time to get creative, or rather to continue to be creative. Over the coming weeks we are going to be exploring faith and spirituality and how it relates to the creative gifts that God gives us. At the heart of being made in the image of God is creativity (it’s the only thing we truly know about God at the point humankind is made in God’s image).

For the first week of term we revisited the worship installations we had used at our reunion weekend. Even just a few weeks on they connected in different ways for people. For some it was their first encounter with Cafechurch as they started their first term at university. Sadly for others it was their last week with us as they contemplated heading home after three years Phd study in Leeds. For all of us it was a good point to think again about how God has shaped our lives.

This week Melvyn, our new Methodist colleague led our session for us. Melvyn is a master with a piece of paper, deftly folding it to make amazing creations.

He shared some of his love for the art of paper-folding with us and told us about how it linked with his spirituality, with a sense of mindfulness and also with the feeling of joining in with creation. Making a three-dimensional bird or an elephant out of a sheet of paper isn’t quite creation out of nothing, but it is pretty close to it!

We were given three things to try folding. Each one had a prayer top read before we started the folding and then to read again after we had finished. First there was a simple heart shape to make accompanied by a prayer reflecting on the Trinity.

The next fold was to make a little paper boat. This was accompanied by a prayer of St. Brendan all about daring to set sail with God and leave behind the comfort and security of the familiar things of home.

The final fold was a dove. This was set alongside a prayer for healing.

As we folded and prayer slowly a small table was filled with our little creations. We finished listening to each of the three prayers being read aloud.

Rarely for Cafechurch we were given homework! Over the next week we are learning to fold paper cranes in readiness for Light Night on 7th October…..


10th Anniversary Reunion

IMG_4188It seems impossible that Cafe Church has been happening for the last 10 years. But it has and that was the perfect excuse for a weekend reunion.

What an amazing thing to do! Seeing people who had been part of Cafe Church from the very first week we met and right up to the current group of students made for the most incredible time. Even though some only knew a handful of other people when they arrived there was a real feeling of being part of the same community. Old friendships were renewed and new ones kindled.  It says something of the strength of the community and the important place it has in people’s lives that some had made real effort to get there – Andrew had traveled from the USA, Martine brought her family from the Netherlands.

Sneaton Castle at Whitby was a perfect venue, with plenty of space to relax together, easy access to the delights of North Yorkshire and the blessing of having the Sisters of the Order of the Holy Paraclete next door. One of the Sisters came to find us on Saturday morning to tell us she had been a student at Leeds some 50 years previous. It was a joy to meet her and later to able to join the sisters for their Sunday worship.

After a day where people had headed out for walks, explored Whitby, enjoyed trips on the North York Moors railway or build elaborate sandcastles on the beach we came together on the Saturday evening for worship.

There were 5 stations set up to help us explore the things that had shaped and continue to shape us as individuals and a community.

IMG_4179On a bench in the sunshine were a collection of pieces of rough wood and some sheets of sandpaper. There was a note of explanation.

The process of going from a seed, to a tree to a piece of fine furniture is very long. One of the last processes is sanding the wood to give a smooth surface. As ever finer paper is used the rough edges are gradually removed. The beauty of the wood grain is revealed.

Take a piece of wood and some sandpaper.

Sand the wood smooth.

As you do reflect on all the parts of your life that have gradually been smoothed to reveal the true, beautiful you.


One of the former science labs (Sneaton had been a school until the late 90s) had a bench IMG_4172with a large piece of clay on it. The instructions read:

There are a number of places in the Bible where clay is talked about – either as finished articles made of clay or of the malleable material in the hands of a skilled maker.

Take a piece of modelling clay.

Hold it in your hands remembering that you are held by God.

Gradually form the clay into a pleasing shape.

As you mold the clay reflect upon how God has shaped and formed you.

 Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

When you have finished shaping your clay place it with the other creations and spend some time looking at their diversity.

By the end of the worship a collection of varied shapes had been placed on the bench.


IMG_4177Under an umbrella a table in the courtyard was set up with an ipad, some metal bowls and wooden sticks. These were singing bowls.

There was a note of explanation about how to use the bowls and how it was possible to get different sounds from them. People held the bowls and tried to make a sound – sometimes it was a sound of the wooden stick hitting the edge of the bowl, other times it started to be a clearer note. some people struggled to create any sound. The instruction talked about sound needing to be drawn out from the bowl, and those who had mastered the technique gradually helped others to bring the sound out.

As they did so from time to time the sound of the bowls reverberated around the courtyard.


In one of the lounges there was a pile of stones and  gravel. The text along side them read:

Stones are shaped by pressure, by friction, by bumping and banging into other stones, by the action of water or feet against them for many years.

Hold a stone in your hands (start with a large one!) Explore the shape, the colour, the texture of the stone. Then take a smaller stone and look carefully at it…. Then hold some of the sand……

If you walk in the Yorkshire countryside you will see walls made of stones. Each placed carefully, chosen for its shape to help build a strong and lasting structure (some of these walls are a hundred or more years old).

We are each chosen by God and used as part of the building blocks of his kingdom.

We are being formed into the shape that he wants and needs us to be.

What parts of you are still being shaped by God?

The stone that the builders rejected
 has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22 )



In another of the lounges there was a table in the middle of the room. On it was a large sheet of paper and a small bowl that contained ashes. The text on the sheet instructed us to read and reflect on the little folded booklets entitled ‘Dust’. It reflected on the transitory nature of dust and our own transitory nature and at the same time pointed to God’s love and care for us.

We were then encouraged to make a cross upon our heads and to ‘remember , you are dust and to dust you shall return’



Over the last 10 years Cafe Church has offered some amazing opportunities for worship. The creativity that is often at the heart of so much we do gives us a glimpse of the Creator who leads us to discover more of Him through that creative worship. Along side that it has been a community in the true sense of the word – sharing our joy and sorrow and supporting each other through what ever life holds. It is a community i am privileged and proud to be part of . It is a community that has been enormously important in shaping me to be who I am.

Here’s to the next 10 years.

World Student Day

It’s not often that we think about students beyond our own university, but world student day gave us the opportunity to do just that.

Emma created three stations for reflection in the chapel space and we were invited to spend time reading, reflecting and praying.

The first stations simply had some stories from WSCF communities around the world. These gave a small insight into the very different situations that students are in around the globe.


The second space focused on Leeds University with a map and a list of faculties and schools. We were invited to write prayers for students, staff, faculties and departments and to pin them on the map.


The final station had a display about the pressures that students face. This made hard reading as it opened up the reality of life for so many students.


After we’d all spent time in the chapel we came back together for more tea and cake and  spent time discussing some questions that had be left on the tables.

It was great to really share with each other some of the joys of university life, Some spoke of the opportunity that access to education gave them and how that isn’t possible for so many in the world. Others talked about how university education had helped and was continuing to help them discover who they really were. There was talk about the importance of faith and how faith was at times challenged but also affirmed by the experience of being at university. There was also talk about the privilege of being at a university where there was space for faith and for chaplaincy.