It 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.
On 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 with 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.
Under 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.