Growth through a Fresh Expression of Church
Thirst and Thirst Too, Ely Diocese
As Sue Butler and a group of Christian parents from St Phillip’s School in Romsey Town, Cambridge chatted and regularly prayed for people at the school gate over a number of years, they could not have known God would develop what they did into Thirst and Thirst Too, a fresh expression of Church which would reach many families in the area and welcome them into the heart of a Christian community. Sue, who is now an Ordained Pioneer Minister says: “a group of us would meet to pray for the school, the needs of the children and parents and for the area. Over that time, we saw lots of answers to prayer - great things happened; people came to faith and people were healed… ”
As their time as primary school parents drew to a close, Sue and others reflected on the relationships built with parents and carers and also the prayers offered and answered over a ten year period. Acknowledging a feeling that there might be more work for them to do at the school, they asked God to show them what was next.
What resulted was a weekly café style gathering in the school which they called Thirst. Advertised in the school newsletter they offered “Welcome, coffee, doughnuts, friendship, listening, reflection, Jesus, love, hope…”
Thirty people came to the first café and Sue says that right from that day, Thirst was a place where people could be very open and she says “a place of healing and bonding where people were touched by God.”
When members of Thirst asked if they could bring their families and friends to something where they could share what they had experienced at Thirst, the leaders were keen to respond and “Thirst Too” started in December 2012.
Thirst Too is an all age fresh expression of Church gathering which meets monthly on a Saturday at a local community centre. It is attended by many young families, most whom are linked with St Phillip’s school; others have heard about it via friends and family. Between 55 and 65 attend including around 30 children, teenagers and pre-schoolers.
The evening begins with a shared meal and time to relax together while the “formal” part of the evening often involves a fairly fast moving multi-media presentation with film clips, stories and songs. This is followed by a memory Bible verse in “retro” Sunday School style on big cards, which they learn together, and interactive prayers which could be “shouting out” prayers or writing them down. “We have tried all sorts of things to help people to engage and embrace the things of God,” says Sue.
There is then an opportunity for people to take part in various activities, including football, art and craft or watching film clips. Everything is designed to be informal and to offer opportunities for conversations and building relationships with people and for them to engage with God if they would like to.
During the evening a prayer room is open to all – a reflective space where people can be quiet or receive prayer; the Eucharist is offered and this is open to all who come to participate.
A growing number of people from Thirst and Thirst Too have taken steps of faith. In 2013 there were six baptisms and in February 2014, 13 people including whole families were baptised. Some have also enquired about confirmation.
A Bishop’s Mission Order has recently been granted and Sue is now licensed as the ordained Leader of Thirst