'Building the Kingdom of God in our little slice of Wandsworth'
During Lent Earlsfield Baptist Church tried a new thing, launching church in a coffee shop and a pub, for which it received a small Missional Adventure grant. Minister Keith Parr explains more
We arrived in Earlsfield, southwest London in June 2021 - as the Covid restrictions were starting to be lifted. Our new church had never really conducted 'church' in the community but, as Covid had bitten, numbers had dropped, and the very future of the church was in question.
We thought and prayed about this before taking a re-start Vision to the church in November 20221, all based around the idea of Church as Family. One of the pillars of this was we would be a Family who loved Earlsfield. We looked at our community and decided we would try to do something in the numerous coffee shops (in particular one that had just opened) and one of the pubs in Earlsfield.
On receiving the email asking for applications (and then acceptance) for the missional adventure grant, I asked the Manny Dartin coffee shop and the Halfway House pub two doors away from the church if they would be happy with us bringing our dogs – the famous Lola and the marvellous Milo - to do church on a Tuesday. This took the shape of a very chatty Bible study in the morning over coffee and then the excellent Table Talk resource in the evening.
They both started slowly, but once the idea clicked with both our church members and the two venues, we saw attendance begin to grow. Its still very early days but we are hoping and praying they will continue to grow, eventually becoming self-sustaining. Both groups have asked if they can continue which is brilliant news!
We’ve moved a Priest and a Pint group to an earlier time and a cheaper pub, but the Coffee and Conversation group remains at the same venue – and we will see what God does with them. We are not doing this to put people in pews or to increase attendance on a Sunday (though if that happens then no-one’s going to complain) but to build the Kingdom of God in our little slice of Wandsworth.
Everyone wins when you do this sort of thing. Businesses that had struggled over Covid have some extra income and you demonstrate to the church that there is a world outside our doors open to discuss things of our faith. Which means people hear about Jesus! We’ve had deep discussions with patrons and bar staff, the owner of the coffee shop and members of our church.
We’ve also shown that the Gospel doesn’t simply belong behind the four walls of our beautiful church. Admittedly, with London prices the £250 grant didn’t last long – but it did cover all costs during Lent which was fantastic.
So, thanks for the cash! It sparked something that may not seem spectacular, but it has helped us begin to be the church we believe God wants us to become.
Image | Unsplash
Keith Parr is the minister of Earlsfield Baptist Church, SW18
Earlsfield was one of a number of Baptist churches to receive a small Missional Adventure grant earlier this year