St John’s Park Church in Sheffield is holding monthly meetings focusing on encouraging the congregation to understand their calling as Christians.
The sessions, called ‘gather to go’, started in January of this year and are taking place on the third Wednesday of each month. The whole church is invited to each event, wherever each individual is on their faith journey.
David Eastwood is the Priest in charge at Saint John’s Park Church – he says the idea came about following new growth in the last year:
“The church has reached a particular point. We’ve seen quite a bit of growth in the last 12 months coming out of COVID, and because of that we no longer know everyone as we did. We’re no longer sort of a tiny church family; we’re a little bit larger now. One of the reasons for this was to enable us to get to know one another better.
“Whenever we meet with people, we encourage them to come to these sessions. It doesn’t matter if people aren’t Christians or haven’t been to church in years. It’s great to be able to have an event where people from all backgrounds and at different stages of their faith journeys, can come together as a church.”
Each ‘gather to go’ starts at 6pm and lasts for 90 minutes. Based in a community type of environment, the evenings start with a meal before people move into a different area of the church with some music and a short prayer.
David carries out the teaching at the moment, with each address lasting up to 10 minutes. The focus of the talks is on missional aspects, with small groups then mixing and discussing the theme that’s been presented.
The sessions are running at least until the Summer, with the intention of knowing people better by that stage.
David says the model of a small group has been very beneficial to them:
“You might be a group of 6 to 10 people but you can have a meal together; you can get things together; you can worship together and you can have fun together. You can look at the Bible together and go out to share the good news.
“When it gets warmer we’ll also look at trips out, which might involve a litter pick, prayer walking or promoting upcoming events. Whatever we do within the church – whether it’s people coming on a Sunday, to Monday lunch club or into the church – we’re inviting them to come together to go as a bit of a next step.”
The latest session addressed the issue of loneliness among young adults, a demographic that is prominent in the St John’s community. One of the books David took inspiration from is The Best of Friends by Phil Knox, which talks about how Jesus call us.
“A person of peace really is all about befriending, so we do want to bring people together and speak into isolation and loneliness.
“The reaction has been positive so far: we had around 40 people at our first event and over 50 at our second – all people of different ages, backgrounds and stages of life and faith.
We’re promoting it a lot and feel there is momentum and enthusiasm from people wanting to be part of this, which is great. It’s like so many things when you start a new initiative; you never quite know what the take up’s going to be. So far, it’s early days but looking really promising. We’re very encouraged.”
You can find out more about the work of St John’s here: Home – St. John’s Park (saintjohnspark.org.uk)