In 2019, the Revd Lara Bloom and members of St Andrew’s, Churcham got together to pray about ways to build community in the village. After a couple of trial runs and then delays during the pandemic, in April 2022, Connect Café was opened regularly once a month as a warm and welcoming space that is freely accessible to all.
Lara says, “I had been aware for some time that there was room for more to happen in Churcham village to create a stronger feeling of community. There had been a family service running for about 25 years that attracted the support of a couple of Christian families within the village who worshipped in Gloucester.
“In mid-2019, I met with the lay worship leader at St Andrew’s (who had been running the family service), a member of the PCC involved with the family service and two Christian women from the village. We prayed together and had a real sense that God was asking us to build community in Churcham. We decided that we wanted to run a community café, once a month, on a Saturday lunchtime.
“We were sure that if we were to appeal to the wider community, the café needed to be ‘branded’ and run in a way that was as far away from a traditional coffee morning format as we could make it. We therefore came up with the idea of serving paninis, homemade cake and really good-quality coffee – and so Connect Café was born.”
The team pooled their various skills to get the café up and running.
“One member of the team is particularly creative and came up with a lovely rustic but modern feel for the café – the décor and set-up reflects this. Another team member has family who are skilled at branding and media and they devised a logo and advertising material.”
One of the important concepts behind the café was that they don’t make a charge for anything – money given is all by suggested contribution, so that nobody is excluded and it isn’t seen as a fundraiser for the church. As well as offering refreshments and hot snacks, there are also blankets to wrap up in and a toy corner to keep little ones occupied while the parents take time to relax and chat.
“Despite the blip that was the COVID pandemic, the café is proving to be a huge success and we regularly serve 40–50 people during a session. People are using the café as a space to connect with neighbours and to share news and issues of the day. It has also provided a safe space for those who live alone to come and meet with others. It is a genuine village initiative and we have had contact with people from the wider village who are not connected to the church.”
Connect Café is open at St Andrew’s Churcham from 12 noon to 2pm, on the fourth Saturday of the month. St. Andrew, Churcham | Forest Edge Benefice
Find more Warm Spaces in your area here: Warm spaces in the Diocese this winter
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