IT’S easy to imagine church just means what happens in a Victorian building on a Sunday morning.
There are hymns, prayers and a sermon, and then we all go home until the same time next week.
Actually, that isn’t church as God understands it.
Church actually happens every time Christians get together to worship, chat, pray or serve their local community.
It’s about a group of people in a relationship with each other and with God.
It’s more like a family than an institution.
So church happens when a group of Christians staff a food bank, or lead a school assembly, or meet in each other’s homes to study the Bible.
Closer to home, it also happens when we run specific events in our church for the local community to join in.
One of those things is our tea service, which happens twice a month at St Paul’s Church, Sarisbury Green.
Families, especially those with pre-school children, come together from 4pm.
They gather around tables to do some kind of art and craft activity together.
There’s much laughter among the glue and glitter.
And lots of chatting, which includes getting to know the real needs of families in our community and trying to help.
There are some lively songs, interesting stories, some prayers and we finish off with a proper Sunday afternoon tea.
Families bring their sandwiches and cake to share, and we give them cups of tea and drinks of squash.
When a new family turns up without food, there’s always plenty to go round.
So if someone asks me when these families are coming to ‘proper church’, I’m afraid the answer I give is not the one they expect.
I know that the tea service is just as much proper church as Sunday morning worship.
For those families who come regularly, this is the event which helps them to engage with God and with others who are also exploring faith.
Some of them might also want to come on Sunday morning, when we do have lively worship – but we’re perfectly happy if they don’t.
If you fancy joining us, our next tea service is on Sunday, January 22, from 4pm.
You’d be very welcome to join in the fun.
St Paul’s Church is in Barnes Lane, Sarisbury Green, SO31 7BG. Go to stpauls-sarisbury.org.uk.
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Rev Sandy Matheson is vicar of St Paul’s, Sarisbury