Emmanuel Café Church - update Dec09

Tuesday, 1 December, 2009

Matt Ward, chaplain at the University of Leeds, takes us behind the scenes at Emmanuel Café Church.

Duration: 3:34   | Download Download mp3


Introducer: The Emmanuel Café Church in Leeds prides itself on offering real coffee, real people, real church. Meeting on a Sunday evening in term time, worship is contemporary, informal and creative. It always starts with coffee but what happens next changes from week to week. Norman Ivison asked Matt Ward, the University Chaplain, why a fresh expression of church for students was needed in Leeds, with so many churches already in the city.

Matt Ward: I suppose when I arrived it was… we were aware that there were a group of students who weren't connecting with some of those churches and setting up the café church was a process of waiting and listening and finding out how we might meet them, connect with them and be church for them.

Interviewer: So when you set up the café church, did you think this is kind of a stepping stone into proper church, or did you say no, this is church in and of itself?

Matt Ward: Definitely the latter, it's definitely church in its own right. We're aware that students will be part of it for a while and then they graduate and move on somewhere else and that might be to a different form of church, it might be to traditional church or it might be another fresh expression somewhere else, but it's definitely church.

Interviewer: You meet weekly during term time and it's obvious to see how that looks like church and feels like church, there are things that you do in your meetings that feel very churchlike in some ways. How do you cope though sort of keeping in touch with students who are all round the place, even during term time I suppose?

Matt Ward: Yeah, we first realised that even in term time, people you see one week and then you don't see for several weeks after that, you know, they've gone home for the weekend, they've been busy working, they've had an essay crisis, whatever it is. To start with we were very simple and just sent texts to each other, just as a way of saying to each other hey this week we're doing, whatever it is, led by so and so, and it was just a way of letting people know it was happening. And then we moved on, we then had a Facebook group, so we made sure that people were keeping in touch without joining the group, having a space for discussion and those sort of things, and now we've moved on to having a blog as well, partly to record what we've been up to week by week but also so if you're not there you can have a good look and join in to some extent as well.

Interviewer: In a more traditional church setting you'd be in reasonably close contact with the people you were working with and ministering to, so how does it work out pastorally for you in what is effectively a network church?

Matt Ward: Exactly the same as if I was meeting with people face to face really. Some students I see regularly week by week on a Sunday but also during the week around the university in different places, whether that's in a coffee shop or just in the Students Union or even in the chaplaincy, and then there's people you don't see so often and you connect with at a distance, either via text or via Facebook or any others… email or whatever. And just because you're not speaking with them direct face to face doesn't mean it's not the same quality and depth of encounter.

Interviewer: University terms tend to be about ten weeks long, how do you cope for the times when students are away, working away or back at home with their parents and so on, in those times of vacation? How do you keep the church going then?

Matt Ward: Well, it's weird, because often the vacation point is the big festivals of the church's year, so we're never together for Christmas, we're never together for Easter and at times that's slightly strange. But it's really important to just keep communicating using the various networks we've set up. At Christmas I'll try and send a text Christmas sermon to everyone I've got connection with, so actually we're very much part of a community together at that point.

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