Church @ 4 is a New Worshipping Community run by St Leonard’s Church in Beoley to the north-east of Redditch. Church @ 4 has been running since May and takes place monthly, usually on the third Sunday of the month from 4-5pm at the YMCA Willow Trees Community Centre in Church Hill, Redditch.
Around 20-30 people attend each service; a mixture of members of St Leonard’s existing congregation as well as new people and families from Church Hill, who don’t go to church anywhere else. The highest number of new people they’ve ever had at a service so far is 15.
Vicar of Beoley, Gail Rogers, who has been in post almost two years said she felt a calling to do a church plant on her very first tour of St Leonards and the parish.
“The actual church, St Leonards, is a beautiful church building but it is a way out from the local population. I just knew that God was calling us to do something on a regular basis in the community. ”
There has long been a strong desire within St Leonard’s congregation to reach out to the community within Church Hill; they had done one-off events and worked in partnership with other local churches of different denominations. However, Gail found that the congregation lacked the confidence to do more.
“A year or so into my role, once I’d got to know everyone, I started the ‘Growing Mission and Ministry Group’ made up of those I knew were passionate about this. Not long after that, I was offered a Mission Accompanier, Alan Taylor. Alan has been great as he gets us to focus on what we want to achieve and what we want the overall outcomes to be. The congregation has always had a desire to reach out, it was just having that push to do it in a different way.”
Although a very informal service, Church @ 4 follows a set format. It starts with a free light meal just before 4pm, such as a baked potato and then each week a key message is shared and there are several worship songs, some of which have actions to follow. Instead of a sermon, there are different ways for people to respond to the bible story and there are craft and other table-based activities to take part in. Play doh and Lego is also available.
“Church @ 4 is very different to our services in St. Leonards church. St. Leonards is such a friendly and welcoming church congregation, they will always give everyone a warm welcome, but at Church @ 4, the message is not just ‘come into our space’, it's ‘this is your space, come and be all that God has created you to be’.”
“Church @ 4 is all invitational. If you want to sing the song or stand up and wave your arms then that’s great, but if you'd rather just sit quietly and continue the activity on your table then that's fine too. Just because people don’t look like they’re engaging, doesn’t mean they’re not still taking it all in!”
One of the ongoing challenges is finding opportunities for the St Leonard’s congregation and Church Hill community to come together. For this reason, the location of the St Leonard’s annual Christmas market was changed from Beoley village hall, where it had previously been held to the YMCA Willow Trees Community Centre, the venue for Church @ 4.
“It feels right that Church @ 4 is based there. We have a good relationship with the people that run the centre and we're committed to growing that relationship and seeing how we can get involved. I'm now a trustee on the YMCA and all these things are just like pieces of the puzzle that are falling into place. Hopefully in the long run this Community Centre will come to feel like as much our home as St Leonard’s Church does.”