In December 2010 we decided to invite the families who attended our Under 5s Carer and Toddler group to a simple Christmas Service specifically for them. We called it Carols and Cupcakes. That day it snowed and we didn’t think anyone would come, but they did and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Following that we started an occasional and then a monthly service at 4pm on a Sunday. It consisted of 30mins of a variety of crafts, then 30mins of worship including singing, an interactive bible story and interactive prayer, all followed by a bring and share tea. We called it The Tea Service. This went really well, attracted a good number of families and was appreciated by everyone who attended. For us this was an outreach event.
Then in September 2014 we took a big step and mored to having our Tea Service twice a month. This was a big change both for us running the service and for this attending. The first thing we noticed was that families that would come occasionally to our 10.30am morning service stopped coming to that service altogether and only attended the 4pm Tea Service. We didn’t anticipate that happening but the result ever since is that we only rarely have children at our morning service. The next change happened over a few months as the Tea Service became a community. Friendships grew and developed beyond the service itself. The Tea Service was no longer an outreach but a Christian community and congregation. In recognition of this we taught giving and generosity as regularly as we do in our morning service and we occasionally celebrated communion and also included christenings for families who were part of that service.
For a few years things went really well, but the children who were coming along were getting older and the pre-school crafts and worship weren’t as appropriate for some of these older children. The result was that some families stopped coming, however we regularly saw new families so our numbers remained fairly consistent. We started to attempt to adapt the crafts but really struggled to do that.
Then cam Covid and the Tea Service stopped altogether. Even when our morning service returned to in person services the Tea Service didn’t because of the far higher level of interaction and the greater risk of spreading Covid. Also during this time some key members of the team decided to step back from being involved. That meant that the format of our Tea Service as we had done it for years was no longer possible.
At the same time my mental health as the Vicar of the parish had continue to suffer. I had six months off due to stress, depression and anxiety before Covid and during the pandemic my mental health hadn’t improved, if anything it had deteriorated. That meant that I know I wasn’t in a position to lead and resource a family orientated service with a new format.
With that in mind I dropped Gavin and Hazel Foster an email asking if they would like to meet up for a coffee to chat about the possible future of the Tea Service. Gavin was the Vicar of my neighbouring parish, St John’s Locks Heath, until in September 2020 he had resigned to take up a post with a solicitors firm as an Ecclesiastical Lawyer. Unbeknown to me that had independently been praying and talking about the possibility of starting a brand new service on Sunday afternoons.
Amazingly and incredibly God put us together and Gavin and Hazel agreed to take on the leadership of a new service twice a month at St Paul’s at 4pm on Sunday afternoons. It retained the multi generational value that had been really important to us and also the community building over tea and refreshments. So far we have met twice and both have been really encouraging. It has been great to see our families returning and also to see adults from both St Paul’s and other churches engage with the service. At a point where I had no idea how to take things forward God stepped in and we look forward to seeing how he grows his church in the months and years to come.