Cafe style' church logs on to internet generation

Worshippers will be served fresh coffee and cakes and invited to discuss video excerpts from Eastenders during a church service designed to 'reach out to the internet generation'. A 'cafe-style layout' of tables and chairs will replace pews at the services, some of which will be loosely based on the impromptu comic style of the television show Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned. The new Friday evening services at St Mark's, Utley, West Yorkshire, will include both ancient and contemporary forms of worship, while sounds will range from Gregorian chant to loud, modern music and even silence. "We've bought some cafetieres, and coffee will be served at the start of the service," said the Rev Derek Walmsley, vicar of the Keighley church. "We'll also offer biscuits or cakes and, who knows, we might even progress to pizza if we feel there's the demand. "For some services we'll follow the Baddiel and Skinner format, with my church administrator, Karl Jones, and myself starting off the discussion. Karl's a very funny man, I'm a down-to-earth sort of guy." He said that topics earmarked for discussion in the coming months included 'What is the Church?' and, for St Valentine's Day, 'Love and Marriage'. "And we might show a clip from Eastenders and ask people 'What do you reckon God thinks of that?" Rev Walmsley, 45, said: "I realise some people may think this is a gimmick, but I hope that people will find a way of worshipping together that's more in tune with their everyday lives than some traditional forms of worship. We're reaching out to the internet generation. "It's not an age thing so much as a mindset. We've got an 80-year-old man in the parish who's on the internet every day. We've got plenty of 40 to 60-year-olds in the congregation, but people aged 20 to 40 have drifted away and often never reappear. We certainly want to reach out to them." Rev Walmsley said that half the members of his parochial church council had expressed interest in the services, and many non-churchgoers had also said they wanted to come. He said Friday evenings might suit some people better than weekends, and this was particularly true of broken families where former spouses had the children at the weekend. He said a total of 200 people went to the existing three Sunday services at St Mark's, but that the church was fairly small and there was a need for a fourth service. He hoped people would find a service that suited them and stick to it. However, he stressed the Friday evening services would not replace the existing services, but supplement them. "We have three services every Sunday, and they will continue. But the Church in every era must adapt to the setting in which it finds itself, without changing the underlying message about God and his love." Rev Walmsley said it was also hoped to introduce new forms of preaching to St Mark's, such as two speakers in dialogue. The first new-style service is at 7.30pm this Friday. For more information contact: The Rev Derek Walmsley or Mr Karl Jones on: 01535 607003

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