Friday, 5 July, 2013

Methodist VentureFX Pioneer Minister Simon Oliver, whose ministry comes under the banner of 'RevCoffee', explains how new things are happening in Cottenham through community, creativity, Christianity and cappuccinos.

I am employed by the Cambridge Methodist Circuit to work alongside the Cottenham Community Centre (CCC) and Coffee Shop.

The Centre and Coffee Shop came into existence when, after many years of faithful worship and service, Cottenham Methodist Church closed down in November 2007. The day after its final service a public meeting was held to explore the possibilities of how the building might be used as a community resource.

The CCC was formed, much hard work and fund raising was carried out, and in February 2011 the beautiful Coffee Shop was opened. It is no longer a church, but I am privileged to be a part of the Community Centre team. I was appointed as part of the VentureFX scheme to work alongside the CCC with young adults and families in Cottenham, a vibrant village of about 7,000 people just outside Cambridge.

RevCoffee - counterAt the heart of my role lies a conviction that being a welcome, accepting, incarnational Christian presence in the community is key to contemporary ministry. So I spend a great deal of time simply hanging out in the coffee shop, sometimes working behind the counter, sometimes tapping away on my laptop, and often just meeting friends old and new.

Out of these relationships, and my connections with other community groups and churches in the village, I try to find fresh ways of exploring issues of life, meaning and faith. People are interested in looking at such issues but often feel alienated, disconnected or simply uninterested in traditional Church, or are just too busy with the chaos and demands of life to find the time and space in their schedules.

We now have quite a few initiatives and projects going on in and around the Community Centre and Coffee Shop; my wife and toddler are very involved in many of these groups. My approach is to be as collaborative as possible, so everything has been set up as a result of prayerfully listening to what people might be interested in, and in partnership with others (sometimes Christians, sometimes those who don't usually have anything to do with traditional church). These initiatives include:

  • Arts Night: A small group of young-ish poets, musicians, storytellers, comedians, singers, photographers and artists get together on the second Sunday of the month. It is a mostly musical group and we have also had some great poetry from Larkin, Yeats and our own members, short stories and photography. Each month has a theme (eg war and peace, parenthood, love, death, resurrection) and we share original and borrowed material and attempt collaborate in creating new works, as well as putting on quality performances. And we always have some really interesting conversations exploring issues of life and faith from a variety of perspectives.
  • Film Club: A fun, new group where people of all beliefs and none come together to watch a movie, eat popcorn and then explore the existential and spiritual issues that come out of it.
  • Dad's Play: We have a large (70-plus on the books) group of dads and male carers/guardians of under-5s who meet informally in the back hall of the Cottenham Community Centre Coffee Shop. The kids get the chance to play together while the men get a chance to eat bacon sandwiches and drink good coffee. We also have regular curry nights - although the children aren't invited to this!
  • RevCoffee - logoMarriage and Parenting Courses. We have run a number of these courses in the Coffee Shop.
  • Daily Prayer: This takes place from 8:30 – 8:45 am, Sunday to Friday at the Coffee Shop. It is often just a couple of adults and my two-year-old, but others often pop in, have a natter and occasionally join us or ask for prayer.
  • Football Plus+: A group young and not-so-young men play football on the first and third Sundays of the month, and a small group of us are exploring the possibility of using of the fourth Sunday to talk football, life and faith over a couple of beers (or lemonades).
  • the Roost: this is new all-age event which we have been experimenting with over the last few months on Sunday afternoons and which officially 'launches' in September. It is a relaxed group which includes arts, craft, conversation, messy play, videos, the Sunday papers, music, poetry, coffee, flapjack and more to give people the opportunity to have fun together, create community and to explore different issues from a Christian perspective.

All of our activities aim to be open and accessible to all, and to give people the opportunity to develop meaningful community and consider the possibility of faith. All beliefs and viewpoints are valued, and seen as equal conversation partners as we try to make sense of life together. Everything is done in very low key and simple ways and – as I have already said – relationships take precedence over activities.

My ultimate hope is that through one or more of our initiatives people are given the opportunity to have a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ and to explore what that might mean for them.

I take the Methodist and Fresh Expressions commitment to ecumenism very seriously, and have found it very encouraging to work alongside the Baptist Church, The Salvation Army, All Saints Parish Church and Christians Together in Cottenham as we seek to develop our ministries in collaboration.

It is not always easy, but it is a wonderful role and a rewarding project, and I feel very grateful to God and to the Methodist Church for allowing me to be a part of it!


Fair trade coffee I hope! :-)

What a great use of resources and energy and compassion for your community. I hope to come by in late Aug/early Sep to have a chat about the setup if I may - my wife is attending the Fresh Expressions conference in Cambridge and I'm doing some work through the Arthur Rank Centre exploring these sort of options for our situation in Western Australia.

Excellent project! To my way of thinking the way Christian community should be. Open, welcoming, accessible and authentic in expression of faith and love. Peace to you!

Press on! I investigated the cost of the license to set up a local film club and found it prohibitive! May you bring love, joy, light and blessing to the community as you share Jesus through your presence.

Talk to Peter Graystone working with Fresh Expressions for Church Army for guidance on setting up a film club! :-)

As regards film clubs, please see the following item from Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE):
Briefing on plans to deregulate community film showings
ACRE has prepared a Briefing which summarises the Department for Culture Media and Sports’ Consultation (DCMS) ‘Community film exhibition’. DCMS is consulting on ‘the exhibition of film’ in communities as part of a package of measures to deregulate various activities from the Licensing Act 2003. Showing films in church and village halls, community centres and other similar buildings is currently a licensable activity. This consultation considers the best way to remove the need to have a licence, but ensure that controls are in place to protect children from unsuitable content.
ACRE would welcome any comments by 19 August 2013.
Read briefing on ACRE’s website

Dear Rev. Coffee,

Hey! What must I do to be saved?

You know about such things as forgiveness from my sins.

I want to hear from someone who knows for sure that they have forgiveness and eternal life.

If that's you, can you tell me how to be saved from God's judgement; I know there is a place called Hell for lost people?

21 Nov 2013

Hello I am a Pioneer Minister in Hertfordshire and am looking to put a film night (hopefully once a month) together. I have been looking through Damaris site to get some assistance. Can you please give me a run down in relation to how you run your film events? Times content e.g. do you do an input in relation to a Christian reflection/questions after the film? if so how long does your event last? What do you do in relation to licences to show the films? What advice could you give me in relation to setting up an outreach within the community here through a monthly film event?

I look forward to hearing from you.



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