Bloomin’ Church! makes God more accessible

01 November 2023

Bloomin’ Church! was written by Anne Middleton and ran from Wednesday 18 October until Saturday 21 October at Devonport Playhouse. The opening night of the Methodist play Bloomin’ Church! was attended by Holly Adams, the Evangelism and Contemporary Culture Officer of the Methodist Church. 

Here is Holly’s review.

There are churches where everyone sits in the same place every Sunday, where seemingly petty personal agendas consume church council meetings and where the overworked minister can’t stop raving about his mission plans. This is a church where people have journeyed together for many years, serving in friendship and sometimes frustration alongside each other. This is Hope Methodist Church – the fictional community at the heart of Bloomin’ Church!

Bloomin’ Church! is a story about six church members who are facing various challenges in their lives such as poor mental health, ageing, grief or coming to terms with their identity. There may well be a character in the story whose experiences resonate with you. As the members take risks and show vulnerability, they discover they have more in common with each other and with the local community than what sets them apart.

I saw the play on its opening night and laughed, cried and sang along with the cast at different points in the production. It was a big moment for the writer, Anne, who is the Performing Arts Mission Enabler in Plymouth and Devonport Circuit. She said, “There is nothing more exciting than seeing an idea form into words and finally blossom in front of my eyes – the performances were so emotional!”

Anne had a vision to create a play that could be enjoyed by everyone. To achieve this, the play needed to be professionally produced and shown in a non-threatening, neutral space. While most of the cast consisted of professional actors, Anne also invited a couple of local Methodist members to participate as extras. The play ran for five performances, with roughly 100 people in attendance each night, the audience included local Methodist members, their friends and neighbours.

Some readers may remember the production Gospel End by Rob Frost and Stephen Deal, which toured around the Connexion in 1992. In 2022, Anne, who toured with Gospel End, was inspired to write a new play for our time, “Although we are facing some quite different issues, the need for a message of reconciliation and hope is as relevant today as it was then.”

The story focuses on ordinary human lives and the importance of community. Director Mark Sidey said, “Whilst the play is set within the church, many of the issues that the characters face are recognisable to anyone outside of it. Without our families, colleagues or friends, many of these issues that we face would become insurmountable.” Bloomin’ Church! shows us that being real with each other deepens our relationships, allowing our church and communities to flourish. It shows that, despite the imperfections of the church, a community where we can be our true, fullest, God-made self, is essential to our blooming.

Bloomin’ Church! invites us to consider if we are prepared to step outside our church building and forge meaningful relationships with the people we meet? Are we open to being changed by God as our relationships deepen? Will we believe that God loves us (and others!) just as we are and calls us as ourselves, to do God’s work of love?

Now, the play’s run has come to an end and Anne concludes, “My hope is that this will be a starting point - to show people how good the production is and just how it can be used to build bridges with the community, breaking down the walls of the church and making God more accessible to all.

A number of circuits already contacted me to enquire how they could have the play come to them.”