When Nigel Evans became vicar of the Chet Valley benefice there was no children's work. There were only three young families attending church, one of which was his own. He worked to develop connections with the local children and their families through school assemblies, activity days and a week-long holiday club. Through conversations with the parents, he became aware of a desire for some sort of worship time for the families. In January 2006 he started Xpressions, working with a team of lay leaders. Xpressions was an event for families with younger children with a mix of stories, games, songs, craft and prayer. Originally this met once a month on a Sunday afternoon in St Johns, Loddon. It built up a good congregation of young families, for whom this was their only experience of church.
In 2007, things began to develop. In response to requests, an occasional morning service, Xpressions AM, was run at Chedgrave, starting with breakfast. By June a proposal was drawn up which took existing Café church ideas a little further, blending in some concepts from liquid church and trying to tailor the whole concept to the space available at Chedgrave - the medieval church of All Saints and also in the Church Centre, which is built onto the church. This new venture " Xpressions Café" was launched in December. Nearly 70 people came through our doors that Sunday morning. This compared to an average congregation at Chedgrave of 25 or less. Of that 70, about 18 were children. The majority of those who came were unchurched. Some of them had been to earlier Xpressions or Xpressions AM events; some had no previous contact with church.
Xpressions Cafe has continued to grow and develop. Today, there are four ‘zones', which operate simultaneously throughout the morning: Xpresso, a café offering extravagant hospitality with unlimited free tea and coffee, cakes and Sunday papers; Xpressions, which focuses on families; Xplore, which tries to explore aspects of faith in a way which will connect with the nonchurched; and Xperience-thenewest zone-which offers a contemplative approach to the month's theme. People come and go as they please.
The largest group of people who go to Xpressions Cafe is parents with pre-teen children, many of whom have had little or no formal contact with Christianity or church in their adult life. This group is mainly to be found in Xpressions or Xpresso, with a somewhat smaller number in joint Xpressions/Xplore sessions. The next largest group is made up of members of traditional Chet Valley congregations who go because this is their church. The third group is made up of people who have found traditional church very difficult. They find the lack of pressure in the Café very empowering and will visit some Xplore sessions and the occasional joint session. Finally there is a group which will come to Xpresso and nothing else.
It is the first and third groups - parents with young children and people returning to church having found more traditional church difficult for who this fresh expression of church really exists and who who will provide the core of any maturing expression of church which will develop over the next few years. To find out more, contact The Revd Richard Seel.
Published on: 14/11/2011