A new term begins….

4 10 2016

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

9 08 2016

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

22 02 2016

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.

Epiphany Blessings

18 01 2016

After a long Christmas break it was good to be back at Emmanuel for the first Cafechurch of the new term and the New Year. As it was the start of a New Year our evening was spent thinking about Blessings. Vicky had prepared our session and as we sat drinking coffee and eating cake we were given instructions for the evening.

Some churches have a custom of blessing homes on the Feast of the Epiphany. Family and friends gather to ask God’s blessing on their homes and those who live in or visit the home. It is an invitation for Jesus to be a daily guest in our home, our comings and goings, our conversations, our work and play, our joys and sorrows.

Many of us have other places and buildings which we might not think of as our homes, but where we nonetheless spend a significant amount of time and are important in our daily lives.

Spend some time thinking about a place which you would like God to bless. This can be your home, your bedroom, kitchen, office, or anywhere, really…

Write your name and the name of the place on a piece of paper and put it in the basket on the altar. If you want to, add the type of blessing you would like God to give this place (e.g. peace, joy, productivity)


Once everyone had placed their paper in the basket we were then given the next set of instructions:

Take a piece of paper from the basket and create a blessing card for that person. Use the materials provided for inspiration. When you have finished write the name of the person on the back and place it on the altar.

On the altar along with everyone’s pieces of paper were some examples of blessing cards to help with inspiration. Everyone took a name and set off to create with the paper, pencils, scissors and crayons.

IMG_2988When people had finished making their cards they were placed on the altar and we then used an Epiphany Blessing for the building. this was a combination of liturgy from a number of sources including the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer and liturgy.co.nz



In the chapel: Blessing the chalk
Our help is the name of the Lord:
The maker of heaven and earth.
The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in:
From this time forth for evermore.

Let us pray.
Loving God, bless this chalk which you have created, that it may be helpful to your people; and grant that through the invocation of your most Holy Name that we who use it in faith to write upon the door of our home the names of your holy ones Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, may receive health of body and protection of soul for all who dwell in or visit our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Outside the doorway

May God give his blessing on this place. God bless it from roof to floor, from wall to wall, from end to end, from its foundation and in its covering.

In the strong name of the Triune God: All evil be banished, all disturbance cease, captive spirits freed. God’s spirit alone dwell within these walls we call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this place, this day, and every day.
Using the blessed chalk mark the lintel of the front door (or front porch step) as follows: 20 + C + M + B + 16 while saying: 

The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and sixteen years ago. May Christ bless this building and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.


In the entrance

May all be welcomed here, Friend and stranger, from near and far.

May each be blessed and honoured as they enter. There is a friend’s love in the gentle heart of the Saviour. For love of Him we offer friendship and welcome every guest


Outside the offices 

May God the Father be the guardian of this place and bring His peace.

May His love be shared, and His will be found here, and peace between all people.

May the Spirit bring lightness and laughter here. May He be the strengthener and comforter in times of difficulty. May the Lord give peace but never complacency. Here may encouragement be found and relationships strengthened. Each day, every day, each going out, and each returning, The Lord bless you and keep you.


Outside the chapel/kitchen

I would welcome the poor and honour them. I would welcome the sick in the presence of angels and ask God to bless and embrace us all.

Seeing a stranger approach, I would put food in the eating place, drink in the drinking place, music in the listening place, and look with joy for the blessing of God, who often comes to this place in the blessing of a stranger.

We call upon the Sacred Three to save, shield and surround this place, this day, and every day.


Closing prayer

Visit, O blessed Lord, this place with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who work or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen

We then returned into the Chapel and were given the cards that had been made for us to take and put in the place that we wanted God to Bless.




3 11 2015

Sunday was All Saints day, so our attention turned to remembering the Saints (obvious really)

Anthea had prepared our evening and started us off with a series of questions that we could choose to discuss in a group, or just to reflect on personally. The questions were pretty diverse from ‘if you were going to have a tattoo what would it be’ to ‘do you have a hero’ to ‘do you have a good memory’ and ‘what happens after we die’.

When we’d enjoyed talking about superheros, and tattoos and saints and a whole range of other things we were given a short bible passage to read and think about. The passage Revelation 21: 1-6 got us talking about our ideas of heaven

After this we moved into the Chapel which was lit with candles. A short presentation was streaming on the screen. You can see it by clicking here or download it by clicking this link Cafe church – Remembering

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We sat and watched it. Some of us cried. Some of us went and lit candles. We all remembered and gave thanks.

Face to Face

27 10 2015

This week Christine helped us continue exploring identity.

To begin she asked us to draw something to represent us and then something to represent God.  Those of us who are more artistically challenged struggled to start, but soon realised that it wasn’t about creating a portrait but more about asking questions about how we see ourselves and God. There was lots of discussion as people shared their drawings and the ideas that they contained.

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Christine then showed us a series of photographs that she had taken on her walk from home to the University. They were all of small details that she had not really noticed before – a feature on a building, an image on a shop sign.

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It was interesting to see how somewhere familiar to many of us had so many hidden things, or rather things that we simply did not notice day to day. A series of Bible passages were then read out that that explored the idea of seeing face-to-face. This led us into discussing a series of questions that got us thinking about how we see ourselves and God.

  • What things do you find it difficult to see/explain/understand when thinking ……of yourself?  …..about God?
  • How do you like to think of yourself? how do you like to think of God?
  • Do you find certain ways of thinking necessary?

The masks we wear…

19 10 2015

IMG_2928This week we moved to thinking about identity. Starting at university for some people is a chance to reinvent themselves. You’re in a new place, no one knows you, there is a possibility of being whoever you want to be. Some of us don’t reinvent ourselves, we just never really reveal who we are. There are things about us that we keep hidden behind masks that we create.

To explore these themes we spent an evening making masks and thinking about ourselves, others and God.

Sarah had made a set of masks in advance and these were in the chapel when we arrived. Tables were set out with scissors and glue and templates to make humanoid masks (from the brilliant Wintercroft). As we cut and stuck there were a whole series of questions on the table for us to think about and, if we felt bold, to talk with others about.

  • Do you wear a mask to hide yourself? Why?
  • What are we trying to achieve when we hide parts of ourselves from others?
  • Who are we masking ourselves from? Friends? Family? God?
  • Are we trying to protect ourselves? Hide emotions? Project strength?
  • Does hiding our true selves protect others or ourselves?
  • Should we reveal our true self to God?
  • Does God already know the ‘behind the mask’ anyway?
  • What would it look like if I never wore a mask?
  • Would it make the world a better place if everyone was to reveal their true self?
  • Does God need us to reveal our true self?
  • Does God love us the same with or in absence to wearing a mask?
  • What is stopping me from putting the mask down? Fear of judgement? Being different to others?

(thanks to Soul Circus for inspiration)

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After about an hour everyone had managed to make a mask. we moved into the chapel wearing our masks and reflected on the idea that God sees the real us, and knows us whatever mask we wear, and accepts us as we truly are. We were invited to take our masks off knowing God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness. We then shared communion together – an opportunity truly to meet with God face-to-face.

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