A NEW church launched in Wokingham on Sunday – but it’s not as you know it.
Oakwood Climbing Centre off Forest Road is the venue for Foundation Church, which meets not in the morning or evening, but at 4.30pm.
And there’s no robes or Sunday best expected. Leader Owen Hayward said that people turn up wearing jeans and T-shirts.
The church held a carol service at the venue before Christmas but it is now meeting weekly.
“Sunday was great, we’re really pleased,” Mr Hayward said. “We had a good number of visitors, which was exciting. People had travelled to support us, others came from the carol service and some had seen posters in the climbing centre.
“Having people come along who have had no contact with us previously was most exciting, we are encouraged that people have responded to the invitation to come.”
The church’s unusual meeting time comes out of necessity and a desire to fit in with 21st-century lifestyles: the traditional meeting times of morning and evening are based around milking times. But, as Mr Hayward pointed out, that’s not how families currently live.
“One of the reasons is practical: the Oakwood climbing centre sometimes have residential weekends which run until 2pm, and they need access to the venue.
“But increasingly people are busy on a Sunday morning, that’s the story for lots of families, we want to engage with them and 4.30pm allows them to do the activities they want to do [before they come].”
And Mr Hayward feels that the Oakwood centre is a good fit for the Foundation Church: “I climb regularly and got to know the centre. I happened to speak with one of the directors and they said that they had some space that might work.
“It does work very well for us, and the trustees have been enthusiastic about us meeting there. They have been really supportive and encouraging.”
The Foundation Church’s website says that it welcomes sceptics to its meetings, as well as church-goers.
“This is very important to us,” he said. “If we are just there for those who are already Christians, we’d miss a key aspect about what church is supposed to be. We welcomed those who identify as Christians, scepticism, atheism, agnosticism. We would love everybody to have the opportunity to help them understand who Jesus is and what claims he made. It’s important people have an opportunity to hear that.”
He added: “No one dressed up [for services], we’re in jeans and T-shirts. People will come straight from climbing too. We just want people to come as they are.
“There is no pressure, people feel they can participate if they want to or just sit and watch. We just want people to feel welcome – and get a great cup of coffee.”
The church will be running an Alpha course – which combines a meal with an opportunity to debate different aspects of the Christian faith – at the Oakwood Climbing Centre from Wednesday, January 29 at 7.45pm. Entry is free, but places should be booked to ensure enough food is available.
For more details, log on to foundation.churchsuite.com