Re-Fresh the School Run!

As the world tentatively opens up, we made a covid-safe call in on St Mary Magdalen Church in Knighton, to see where God was at work…

Set against the backdrop of St Mary’s Church and in the warmth of God’s creation on this particularly sunny Wednesday morning, a group of locals have come together in faith, fellowship and the love of French pastries.

This is ‘Re-Fresh the School Run!’ - a pop-up deli and Celtic prayer gathering where breakfast treats, freshly ground coffee and Northumbrian Community meditation help to start the day among the community of Knighton.

It’s an idea that started back in November 2019, before the pandemic diminished our church contact and stopped people meeting in person altogether, but has been resurrected outside over the last month or so, making the most of the fine weather. 

The ‘proper’ coffee machine was purchased with the support of money from the Diocese of Leicester’s Growth Fund and, alongside the homemade cake and Hambleton pastries, has added to this cosmopolitan café-style experience.

But it’s not just about the coffee, of course.

Today it’s busy, with a steady stream of people coming and going, some taking a bench in the quiet church yard, others engaging in exuberant conversation. The atmosphere is relaxed and easy; God’s gentle presence felt in the welcome and loving service, among the many and varied conversations, and at the heart of morning worship.

A friendly team of Andrew, Ida and Irvine, alongside curate, Reverend Matthew Gough (who initiated this whole thing), mill around taking orders.

The weekly gathering has proved popular with a mix of people across the area in recent weeks, popping in for a coffee and chat, before moving into the church for morning prayer. The plan is to keep things going until the end of the school summer term, and then bring the group back together again in the Autumn, if the desire is there.

“We wouldn’t want it to become fossilised, but rather responsive to what people’s needs are, the seasons of the year and the seasons of the community,” says Reverend Adrian Jones, vicar at St Mary’s. 

“The church yard is such a thoroughfare at school-time, with parents and children coming back and forth, it just felt obvious to draw on that. And when you look around, God is here in the connections, in the conversations, in the drawing together of people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.”

By chance, a man is passing through, on a walk, and sits down for coffee. He doesn’t live in Knighton, but his parents married at the church in the 1930s and he was christened here, too.  As he sits back in the sun, admiring St Mary’s, he says it feels like ‘coming home’.

Another lady, who has been mostly at home during the pandemic, is grateful to be among company. “After a busy career-life, I became a house-wife and have spent so much time at home lately it’s just wonderful to be in good company and beautiful surroundings,” she says.

Ida, who is doing a grand job waiting the tables says she feels happy to be able to serve God and the community. “It’s really important to me that people feel welcome here and that we can show them what the church has to offer – be that everything from spirituality to friendship,” she says.

Revd Matthew is full of wonderful ideas for St Mary’s, and the Church in general, and has an infectious enthusiasm that is clearly of benefit to the parish. 

“Blessing the school run remains on my heart,” he explains. “We have a number of parents who pop in from time to time and the coming together of intergenerational communities in the process is God’s agency at work.”

Team member, Andrew, believes that with everything we’ve been through during the pandemic, it’s about reaching out to the community and sending the message that the church is here for everyone. “It’s a nice way for people to take time out with God, and each other, and to sit in quiet contemplation in a holy place,” he says. “For that, I’m a willing pair of hands.”

Tucking into an oat and raisin cookie, one St Mary’s regulars points out that, “it’s bringing people into the church family that we’ve never seen before, and that’s just lovely.”

Irvine is relatively new to the church, or certainly was before the pandemic, and was asked by Rev’d Matthew if he’d help out. “It’s important to me to support the church moving forward and serve the local community,” he says. “People come here for a reason and God is everywhere in this.”

There’s no escaping the fact that bringing people into a relationship with the church and most significantly, with God, is what this gathering is all about. It’s what we are called to do every day in our witness as disciples, after all.

If you’re looking to start something similar in your church community, Rev’d Matthew’s advice would be to ‘have faith.’

“We’re working in God’s Shalom, and it would fall apart to some extent if we had bad weather, but we’re playing to our strengths in this ancient, trusted landscape. It’s about service, and loving service and I think that Celtic prayer is non-threatening so it’s about trusting the Kingdom growth. God honours that,” he says.          

And as the morning draws on, there’s that lovely lingering of people, enjoying the sun, appreciating the companionship, and basking in the glory of God. But busy life dictates… until ‘Re-Fresh’ments are served, once again, next Wednesday.

First published on: 28th June 2021
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