I spent today at Cambourne Church. What follows is a short commentary on some of the things I have seen and noticed...
When I arrived shortly after 9am there are a good number of mums who've just dropped kids off at school. They have come to 19, the church-run coffee house. They take the opportunity to have a little chat and enjoy a cup of coffee (a bargain £1.20 for an Americano). How fantastic that there's a place for people just to pop in and enjoy each other's company in an open and airy space. I'd guess that there are people here who would, in general, never darken the doors of a church and yet here they are. There's nothing massively "churchy" here but people know where they are; isn't it good that this place can offer the simple ministry of being a space where people can gather?
By 9:30 the final few people are sneaking through the door to get into the first meeting of a new Slimming World group. All of us with bacon rolls (£1.40) feel a little guilty. The group is incredibly well-attended which is great, as the organiser looked a little worried that no-one would turn up. They are using the main church hall - a flexible space - and lots of the members had dropped by earlier to have a cup of (black decaf) coffee beforehand. This is a church which is genuinely seeking to serve its community and this is great to watch.
People come and go in small groups throughout the morning. One lady is a bit upset but can use this space to talk with some friends. An elderly gentleman pops in from over the road for a bite to eat and a drink. He chats to the people behind the counter and I have a little chat too (he's a Yorkshireman, friendly chitchat to all is an obligation).
Two businessmen in shirts and ties come in for a coffee and meeting. They are deep in conversation while some kids scream and play up and down the aisle as their mums sit down and chat for a few minutes.
By 11am the last few Slimmers have left the hall. I spot one or two ordering a bacon roll (brown bread) and they clearly take great pleasure in a well-deserved treat. A solitary lady enjoys a tea cake and a book as the light continues to flood in.
The staff here seem to know everybody who comes in and they take the chance to have a little chat with every one. Some of them have more involved conversations and get some support and advice. One volunteer has brought her toddler along while she helps. Her toddler has a fantastic time with some of the other kids.
Shortly after the coffee shop closes the space is filled with mums and toddlers (and a few dads). Everyone eats together, the kids play, parents swap stories and advice. There are some tears and some tantrums (mostly from the kids). Some music and some craft. It's a very congenial atmosphere.
Next is the youth group. Shortly after 4:30pm there are 20-30 teenagers filling the building. Some get a toasty or a milkshake, others play football, some play on the Xbox 360, one even takes me on at chess (and loses). A few of the kids are regulars at church but a lot of them would never darken the doors. Interestingly, there are a fair few who get themselves into a bit of trouble, but here they are involved and enjoying themselves. It's good to watch. There's lots of good banter.
Nothing groundbreaking or new happened today (although the use of Google Forms and an iPad to self-register the kids at the youth club was neat). Lots of things that happened here will have happened all over the place today. None of the things that I've mentioned involved the vicar (although one highlight of the day was to see him running down the high street this morning - a shame he wasn't wearing his dog collar). The day involved normal people doing normal things, and yet there was a real sense that God was at work in these very simple ministries. It felt like the exactly the kind of thing that a local church should be doing and encouraged me greatly.