It made me smile to see the church totally empty. Ten thirty on a Sunday morning and not a soul was in sight. No music, no people, no service, not even a coffee in a green cup in the hall. For some this would be a depressing sight, but not for me, because I knew where all the people were…..they were outside serving their community. In the Newcastle Upon Tyne District, local churches have been encouraged to join in with a new mission initiative called Get Out Of Church Sunday. The idea being that during any Sunday in October, in place of the normal Sunday Services, congregations leave the premises and go and do something different as a way of engaging in mission and serving those around them.
Games in the park
Great Lumley Methodist Church, like many others, took up this challenge & after a great commissioning from their minister, Ian Kent, they left the building! All of them!!!
The 1st group was made up mainly of children & a couple of Sunday School teachers. Carrying a large box of games they were heading for the park to play games with any other children who happened to be there. The next team were dressed very casually for a Sunday morning…this was because they were off to the village green to do some gardening and pick up litter.
Off on a prayer walk
Then came the team who wanted to prayer walk around their village and ask for God’s blessing on their community.
Free coffee at the football
The next team were headed for the coffee shop in the community centre where they were going to use a great resource called Table Talk to hopefully spark conversations. Finally a team laden with flasks and drinks left the building. They were off to the sports field to offer free hot drinks to the parents as they watched their children play football. A couple of people did stay behind as their job was to get a barbecue lunch ready as everyone was going to gather back there and invite others to join them for some free food.
Table Talk in the cafe
After leading a team in the morning, David Brown said ‘Get out of church Sunday has provided Great Lumley Methodist Church with an opportunity to reignite its vision to be at the heart of the community and with a heart for the community. We haven’t moved mountains yet but it’s definitely given us the boost we need to get back out there and be sharing God’s love with our community.’
Lots of churches engaged with many great, yet simple, mission activities, most of them finding to their surprise that not only could they do it, but they actually enjoyed it. Lots of prayer walks, visits to those who can no longer attend, songs in the park, launch of messy church, youth activities, gardening, litter picking, coffee drinking, time to talk with local residents, the offer of free food, picnics in the park, Table Talk in community areas, Bible studies in cafés, cake making and then taking them to visit those who are lonely…the list goes on. All on one day in October. A Sunday when Christians decided to ‘get out of church’.