St Thomas the Apostle, Groombridge

Monday, 1 June, 2009

St Thomas the Apostle, Groombridge - an Anglican church on the Sussex/Kent border - would describe itself as 'a Eucharistic parish', says minister Tony Fiddian-Green.

Communion services take place twice every Sunday. Four or five times a year a 'café Eucharist' replaces the main morning service, and Tony is also involved in a Eucharist with the church school.

Tony prepares the children for this termly event with three preceding classes, during which they trace the practice of Eucharistic fellowship back to the Exodus, through to the Upper Room in Acts and on to the parish.

Every time we do it we recapture the stories, and they do remember,

he says of the children.

At each service the children are involved with the prayers, readings, candles, banners, drama and music and the offertory, which includes a basket of cracker biscuits or matzo bread, chosen because of the biblical references to 'thin' bread.

'We have a celebration of the Lord's resurrection every time we practice the Eucharist. We get together, remember Jesus, and break bread.'

However, not all the school children are confirmed.

Having a school Eucharist would be bewildering for pupils who learn about it and then can't receive,

Tony says. So while those are who are confirmed receive, children who are not leave with the gift of a portion of blessed bread and a carton of juice.

This is an idea inspired by the Orthodox tradition where believers receive communion rarely, and after much personal preparation, but may leave a service with blessed bread on ordinary occasions.

Then there is the Café Eucharist to which the normal congregation is encouraged to invite their neighbours.

It's a fellowship breakfast really, with the breaking of bread in the middle,

explains Tony.

Non-churchgoers come to these services, held in the church hall, as well as the usual congregation of up to 100, which means that as many as 130 people can be present.

Tables for eight are laid with cloths and flowers for a simple breakfast of croissants and rolls. The service includes a two or three minute talk and the consecration of the elements with the words of institution. The bread and wine are passed round the tables from person to person.

Those who come often say they didn't know church could be like this,

Tony says.

We have a celebration of the Lord's resurrection every time we practice the Eucharist. We get together, remember Jesus, and break bread.