01 May 2017
A place to meet and be
Sitting alone in Costa can often prove to be a fascinating experience. There's so much life to be observed here, happening all around.
In fact, I think there might be a couple on a first date sat beside me!
There are people of all ages here: older couples, parents and small children, students trying to write essays, folk on laptops surrounded by paperwork, Mum's and cute babies.
So much to see - all of us united in our love of coffee, except I don't think that's what it's really about. We're united in our wish to spend time with others, to relate to friends, family (and maybe on occasion strangers). Costa gives us a place to do this. It provides a meeting place, a relaxed and warm environment that enables us to simply gather and build relationships without too many complications.
And this got me thinking about church as a place where different generations, cultures and perspectives mingle, forming faith with each other. Michelle Anthony, U.S Family Ministry Leader, wonders if church has lost its 'village-ness', that sense of community where people know and support one another in all circumstances? She believes that being part of a larger faith community is especially important for children who need to "experience authentic, organic and life-transforming spiritual guidance from loving adults in the church community." So how can we encourage everyone to have a sense of belonging in this way?
Are our churches easy places to get to know others? Do we keep it simple in all-age or intergenerational services so that people from different backgrounds, cultures and generations can worship alongside one another? Are they creatively planned times of worship that provide a space for everyone to meet with God? Or do they become battlegrounds over style and substance where no one leaves refreshed or with new faith understanding?
Ivy Beckwith touches on this in her book 'Postmodern Children's Ministry' when she reflects on what it means to be a genuine faith community: "All churches are some kind of social community, but it takes thought, intent, and hard work to become a biblical community". Coffee has a central role too in her story of bringing people together and she highlights the role of community in spiritual formation, recognising it's not always easy.
But perhaps the best place to start is by adopting a 'Costa' approach: simply providing a space where everyone is at ease and feels at home, space to be ourselves, to meet with God and each other. A space where people have a sense of belonging to a family rather than an institution, as Westerhoff describes it. This notion of church bumps into our ideas about participation too and how we might just make space for God to dwell amongst us all whatever our age or background. Creating a holy space where everyone is welcome.
- What's the difference between 'belonging to a family rather than an institution' look like in practice?
- What 'spaces' exist in your church that allow different generations, cultures and backgrounds to spend time together?
 Michelle Anthony 'Dreaming of More for the Next Generation' David C. Cook 2012 ISBN-13: 9781434700162
 Ivy Beckwith 'Postmodern Children's Ministry' Zondervan 2004 ISBN-13: 978-0310257547
 John H. Westerhoff III 'Living the Faith Community: The Church that makes a Difference' Church Publishing Inc 2004 ISBN-13: 978-1596280038