1st Sunday@5

Monday, 9 January, 2012

Castle Square United Reformed Church in Trefforest hosts a Café Church every month. Leader Gethin Rhys explains its development since launching in September 2008.

Our original vision for 1st Sunday@5 is so very different to what we have ended up with but that's part and parcel of allowing the vision to change over time. The church in Trefforest, a village in the south east of Pontypridd, is right next door to the University of Glamorgan and 1st Sunday was originally promoted through the university chaplaincy.

1st Sunday at 5 - tableHowever, after the first few sessions it became clear that we were not reaching the people we were aiming for. Another church in Pontypridd had started an all-singing, all-dancing café service, complete with live bands, at the same time as us and that attracted the students. We couldn't compete with that. After a few months we were at the stage of thinking Café Church was an interesting experiment that hadn't worked and we would let it die a natural death.

But then I was approached by some of the people who were members of the Baptist Church up the road and they wanted to explore different ways of worshipping. We did a couple of services in their building rather than ours but our premises turned out to be more suitable. They formed the core of the group, to which various people have since been added. It's mainly made up of local residents, one or two of whom are regular churchgoers at other local churches and others who have got fed up with traditional church but are still interested in spiritual questions. They find Café Church to be a good way of exploring those issues.

1st Sunday at 5 - juiceI also run Sacred Space, another Café Church, in conjunction with local Anglicans in Porth. Sometimes I carry over the same theme, though slightly amended.

At Trefforest, at least one session a year is led by someone other than me. It's informal and we have opportunity to maybe watch a DVD clip and then have a chat about it and take part in associated activities. We say the Café Church offers 'good coffee, great cake and inspirational worship'.

It was interesting that the Café Church members led the way in asking me if they could have Communion. This meant a lot because many had previously lost touch or became disillusioned with traditional church but still wanted to share in Communion. What I did was to use bread and wine as a theme for our time together and we had different kinds of bread and different kinds of wine on hand. We talked about the significance of bread and wine in different cultures and I then asked everyone to get a piece of bread and pair it with whatever wine they wanted – the one led into another and it was then very natural to share Communion together.

1st Sunday at 5 - fishing1st Sunday has developed in a very different way to the Porth Café Church in that it has drawn in people who had left traditional church, whereas in Porth we have appealed across ages and across theologies within traditional churches. Our main problem in Trefforest comes with leadership because inviting people to share leadership responsibilities for something they see as part of the traditional church – which they feel very disillusioned about – makes it very difficult. One of those who comes along is an active lay preacher. She has very much enjoyed attending 1st Sunday@5 and not having to lead. I have respected that but we will have to look at people who are willing to find a way of continuing it as my term in the church is likely to end in about a year's time.