Last Sunday, for our latest Sabbatical Sunday jaunt, Julia and I had a lovely day visiting Elvetham Heath near Fleet in Hampshire. In the morning we attended The Church on the Heath for their 11.00 a.m. All Together Worship Service, and afterwards we went to my daughter Caroline’s house for Sunday Lunch. Caroline and her husband Simon are members of The Church on the Heath and, until fairly recently, Caroline was on the church’s Pastoral Staff.
The Church on the Heath is a partnership of Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and United Reformed churches (which is pretty unusual) but just one church family learning to love God, serve others and live out their call to be a community where everyone can encounter the transforming love of Jesus. It started its life on, what was then the new housing development of Elvetham Heath, Fleet, twenty-three years ago. It is led by Patrick and Rosie Butler, Patrick is an ordained Anglican Minister and Rosie is a trained teacher by profession although she now works part-time at the church. The Church is around 300 strong and Patrick and Rosie have a small but dedicated staff to help them in the mission and ministry of the church. They have a wonderful spacious modern building right at the centre of the community, near a large supermarket, the local school, and various other amenities and is a hive of activity throughout the week.
On Sunday mornings they have two Services – a more traditional Service at 9.15 a.m. followed by what they call an All Together Service at. 11.00 a.m. with coffee and cake in between the two. The earlier Service is livestreamed, but the second Service isn’t because of all the children being present. Both Services follow the same theme although they are radically different. They are currently following a Lent Series entitled Nurturing Faith and Staying Connected, and this week the theme was The Practice of Spending Time with God Each Day. The first Service is more of a Preaching Service, but the second Service is a rather avant garde Family Service, open to all, but primarily for families with children. It is proving very popular, and attracting interest from other churches who are looking for ways to replace traditional Sunday School with something that appeals right across the board.
I have to say that it was excellent. It was different, in as much as there was no ‘preaching’ as such, but it was well planned with appropriate songs, thoughtful prayers, Bible searches, well-illustrated short talks, Bible readings, and some excellent contributions ‘from the floor’ so to speak that were very helpful to us all. There must have been around 80 people there and lots of children (who were remarkably well behaved throughout). The Service lasted about and hour and 20 minutes but was really well led by Rosie Butler and her team of helpers. There were lots of freebies available, that were excellently used to illustrate the various talks … so nice to be with a church (that has its financial struggles, as many churches do) but demonstrated such a generous spirit. We were made very welcome by everyone including the Minister and given a guided tour of their impressive premises by Caroline.
After the Service we drove back to Caroline and Simon’s lovely house in Elvetham Heath for an excellent Sunday lunch and a chance to catch up on family gossip as well as matters of faith and putting the world to rights! Sam, Caroline and Simon’s son, was there as well (they have a married daughter, Hannah, who now lives in London). Sam is studying at the University of Exeter but is living at home at the moment because his course requires him to have a year out on secondment, and he is working for L’Oréal for a year. Simon and Sam are Chelsea supporters so, as a Brentford supporter, I enjoyed bragging rights (Brentford being above Chelsea in the Premier League Table) for a change! We enjoyed an excellent lunch and Caroline had even made apple crumble with custard for pudding (a rare treat for me these days).
So, an excellent day all round. Great church, lovely worship, wonderful lunch … and quality time spent with my favourite daughter (well my only daughter in fact)!