Cake, craft and face painting – how to engage with your local community

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How do you engage with your local community when you are a small congregation?

The Upper Room, partly called because they do meet on the 1st floor of the local nursery on a Sunday morning, decided to meet local people through food and generosity! The immediate community on their doorstep was the local primary school. So one Summer afternoon they decided to hire the local Martlesham Pavilion, open the doors to the passing parents and children, and offer space to meet together and relax – in between that time of returning home from school and starting the family evening routines.

Around two years later and they were preparing their latest Christmas event. Rows of tables full of home made cakes, face painters at the ready, and tea and coffee bubbling away – the children and their parents steadily came through the doors. The atmosphere is relaxed, and it is evident that all those coming in feel at home here – parents finding somewhere to sit and chat at the tables, and the children eagerly queuing up for their free face painting. The face painting has proven so popular that they have even had to bring in a professional face painter to help keep up with demand! There are also craft activities – and then there is all the food!!

The afternoon is all about creating a space to be; to meet with friends and to feel appreciated. One member of the congregation says, “You have to take time to build relationships, and earn the right to talk about the important things in life. We look to do things well – to make people feel that we have taken time for them.”

The congregation run these events three times a year – just before the school breaks up at Easter, Summer, and at Christmas. Typically they see in excess of 100 people. “It can be quite an onslaught when they all come out of school!”, says another member of the congregation, “but its great to see them all enjoy coming here.” At this latest event parents were being invited to the Church’s carol service the following Sunday afternoon (17th December, 3pm @ Martlesham Pavillion). The craft activities also look to bring in a theme about Jesus.

At the end of the afternoon, the children can take away some free gifts. These are related to the gospel in some way – an opportunity to take away reminders of why this group take the time and effort to make people feel special.

If you would like to know more then you can contact Church Elder Keith Markwell at jmmarkwell@hotmail.co.uk