By Michael James
Answer; When it is not only a place of worship but also tries to march in time with the heartbeat of its Local Community.
I am of course talking about, ‘The Church opposite the Claude’, or to give it’s proper name, Albany Road Baptist Church. It’s a Church with a growing reputation in Roath as a modern, relaxed, needs fulfilling environment which really means it’s banner headline which shouts out, “EVERYONE WELCOME”, without compromising its Christian roots and ethos. Everyone is indeed welcome, all races, status, faith, or no faith, young, middle aged, or, like me, somewhat older.
Yes it has all the usual Sunday services that you would expect but mixes them up with different twists like Messy Church, Cafe Church and Pub Church. Yes, that’s right, I did say Pub Church ! It has formed a mutually respectful working relationship with the Claude and holds bi-monthly evening services within the pub bar or lounge.
Perhaps not typical church services but more of an informal gathering for an evening of listening to invited speakers talking informally about their faith within different walks in the outside world, and that brings me to a commercial.
On Tuesday evening, 17th May, the Pub Church presents, ‘An Evening with Paul Jones’. Yes, the very same Paul Jones whose credits include, lead singer with the 60’s pop group, Manfred Mann, then the Manfreds and later, the Blues Band.
Paul currently presents the popular weekly blues show on Monday evenings on BBC Radio 2.
Joining Paul will be his wife, former TV and West End musical actress Fiona Hendley, who together present a weekly programme on God TV. The evening promises to appeal to everyone as they chat about their showbiz careers and their faith. Don’t miss it.
Cafe Church, held on alternative bi-monthly Sunday evenings, follows the same relaxed pattern as Pub Church. Listening to guest speakers while sipping a tall latte or foaming cappuccino with your friends is another opportunity to hear about peoples faith in a comfortable, non-threatening manner. Recent speakers have included a local folk singer/songwriter group and more recently, a group of people, like you and I, telling about, ‘My Story, through interviews, music and drama.
Ok, I hear you thinking, so much for different styles of service. What about meeting the needs of the community? What about me? Well if you are a somewhat fraught/harassed Mum or Dad who has an energetic child who needs an outlet there is Messy Church, for those who may not like the formality of a church service. A time of fun, music, games, lessons and craft work followed by a tea party.
Perhaps you are someone with a baby or pre-school aged child and need a break from the house to perhaps meet up with friends or meet and make new friends? The popular Tuesday afternoon Pram and Pushchair Group may be just what you need. Your child can make their own friends as they play with a large variety of age suitable toys while you chat with the other Mums and Dads over a soft drink, tea or coffee.
That’s the youngsters taken care of but what about the slightly older children and teenagers?
Well every weekday evening there are the traditional groups of Scouts, Cubs, Beavers, Guides, Brownies and Rainbows, and every Friday evening there is a hugely successful, mixed youth club for the 9-14 year olds with a new club for the 6-9 age group commencing in September. As well as fun and games, the Church is heavily involved with the three local primary schools, Marlborough Road, Albany Road and Roath Park Schools.
Going into, by invitation, to take morning assemblies and helping out with one-to-one reading classes where needed. In after school time the Church hosts a privately run Kumon class which provides extra help in Mathematics and English.
As you are probably aware, our Community is diverse with all manner of differences not only the usually accepted ones of race, colour, faith, the lonely, the homeless, the low paid or unemployed, but also those with disabilities, the aged , the carers the refugees and those seeking asylum for all sorts of reasons. They (we) all have needs and ARBC is trying to sense those needs and, in some small way address them. I have written before about the tragedy of children, who in the school holidays go hungry because of the lack of money of their parents. The Church, working with the charity, CHOMP, has undertaken to provide at least two hot meals each week of the school holidays for these children as well as providing a time for fun and games.
At the moment the Church is considering opening within its premises somewhere where those who suffer with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and their carers can spend some time over a cup of tea or coffee and a friendly chat. Causeway/Prospects hold a twice monthly Sunday afternoon meeting where those with learning disabilities share what is happening in their lives and hear bible stories told simply and clearly and join in singing. This really is a special time with much fun and laughter and yes, the occasional tear or two.
There are many in our Community, of all ages, who need help in learning a language that is unfamiliar to them or who want to meet and chat with others in their own language. There are groups who meet regularly in the Church to do this, and recently a small group of Iranians has started to study the Bible in Pharsi. Also meeting on the premises is the Mount Church, a Group of Christians from Kerala, India, who hold services in their own native language.
Outside the Church premises, volunteers work on the weekends as street pastors, moving at night and through the early hours among the many street revellers with bottles of water and footwear and a helping hand when necessary. Others go out at night to provide warm food and hot drinks, fresh clothing, socks and shoes, blankets and sleeping bags though a local organisation, the Rainbow of Hope, based in Broadway, which has an office, drop-in centre and a second hand shop catering for those in need as well as distributing food parcels to those who can’t afford things on a small budget.
So many things are being done for everyone in our Community in the Service of Christian love, by many churches and organisations, but ‘The Church Opposite the Claude’ is working to prove that the many differing needs of those around us are being met and that, ‘A Church is Not Only a Church’ but is the heart and centre of the Community in which it stands.