Welcoming and making children and young families feel welcome in a church environment is a sensitive balance and often a tricky task but one which Hunslet Community Church has met very well.
Meeting in the hall of Hunslet St Mary’s primary school, Belle Isle and Hunslet parish have worked very closely with Holbeck parish to develop and plant a new congregation very close to the site where St Mary’s Church used to be and where there has been a church meeting for 500 years.
Walking into the school hall as a newcomer I was warmly welcomed by Father Chris who is the Vicar in charge of Belle Isle and Hunslet parish. He explained that this is an exciting venture and it is wonderful to see the congregation gathering, growing and the children being welcomed so warmly. Father Chris has been very generous with his resources and secured the location and was flexible with the timing of the service.
An afternoon service was chosen to suit families and people who work shifts and this has worked well, coupled with Holbeck providing resources to support Father Chris and the Community Church the service was very well attended with around 25 adults and half as many children visiting while I was there.
Speaking to one family in particular, Gareth and Hayley, I got a sense of what it was like to come to this new church gathering after attending Hunslet St Mary’s for a lifetime. The couple reflected on the fact they had both been going to St Mary’s since they were tiny and had a lot of experiences there, Hayley fondly recalled ringing the bells on a Sunday morning.
Gareth noted that when St Mary’s sadly closed due to the building being unsafe, people scattered to different church’s in the area but he was encouraged when the Community Church opened and he saw a few of the other congregation members from Hunslet St Mary’s returning for worship together.
“This service is a good way to reset a faith that you’ve lost.” He said in reference to the old church closing.
They both agreed that Father Chris is doing a fantastic job along with the support from Holbeck parish and their children are welcomed as warmly as they are which is important to them as they’re the future of the church. Hayley also mentioned that due to working shifts in her job the once a month element of the gatherings works really well for this and her young family.
The service was not typical of church, people were sat round tables which were bursting with children’s activities with space at the back for the children to run around and play. The sermon was short and snappy with a good time for reflection and prayer and even all age activities to reinforce the teaching involving the children. Poor Gareth was very wrapped up with the whole affair and found himself bandaged up!
The overall feeling of the gathering was relaxed and everyone was so friendly and spoke to each other, I was welcomed as though I’d been attending since it was planted five months ago and fed a delicious meal of chilli and bread, hot food is always provided after the service has finished. The community and Holbeck parish would like to extend a warm thank you to Father Chris for hosting the service.
If you’re looking to attend but you’re unsure of going for the first time don’t worry, they are planning a social event later in the month so get in touch with Rev Rolf Mason on 07894 429214 and come along! Otherwise the next service will be Sunday 10 November at Hunslet St Mary’s School, but go round the back of the school and enter via the staff entrance off Lupton Street.