48 years old and last Sunday I could be found en-route to Cardiff to go `clubbing`!!! Well, to say this, is a bit of an exageration as it was more of an event held in a nightclub.
Beginning on April 1st 2007 by James Karran (a Baptist Pastor) and Wendy Sanderson ( a Church Army worker), its aim is to make Christianity relevant and accessible in the 21st century post chrstendom society. When many young people are not even considering Church life, but ARE interested in spiritual matters this is an exciting and bold initiative to meet their needs. I first found out about this through their website http://www.solace- cardiff.org.uk and felt I needed to go and find out more, and so began a 6 hour round trip of 400 miles just to go for a drink ! I was glad I did.
Their initial target group when they began, was the student community but this has gradually evolved into a wider group of anyone involved in the club/pub culture. They meet in different nightclubs. The night I attended the meeting was in clubiforbach, the premier student club in Cardiff. The club actually make a loss on hosting these evenings as they only charge £50, but they see it as helping a good cause; it also gives them good publicity. James felt it was important not to be in a church setting as this made them more approachable to younger people. The staff of the club are non~christian and they certainly seemed to enjoy what was happening.
James felt that it was important that there be no cringe~factor in this work; it has to meet the people were they are. I couldn`t help thnk about the number of times Jesus met people in the marketplace, on the streets etc. Although he obviously attended the Synagogue and considered this important, he also went to where questions were being asked. John Wesley was later to do the same with his field preaching. James and Wendy have ensured Christ is known in the nightclub scene.
It is a mixture of entertainment (straightforward gigs), speakers, and discussion topics. They`ve just completed a series of themes about sex and are aware that in their venue it is sometimes easier to look at issues the church finds harder to tackle. The very name, solace, refers to a place where people can feel safe to ask questions.
Solace is asking and searching the question of “What is an authentic Christian community ?” and so it needs to be relationship based, not simply church on a Sunday in a club. Consequently they`re exploring the question of what does church look like in this situation ?
The night I attended was a gig. Apparently they usually have a Christian and a Non~christian band, but unfortunately the Christian had pulled outdue to illness. Thankfully the manager of the other band BENSEM offered to fill in. She was very good, as were Bensem themselves. Loud (very), but the quality was there and there seemed to be a special presence over the whole evening.
What was the Church content ? The notices at the beginning simply consisted of a welcome and an advert for the following week, and then we were into the music. On the face of it there was little if any Christian input, but there was a lot of prayer befrete evening began, especially prayer that God would open up conversations that could begin relationships. How often do we pray that in Church life ?
I raised the difficult practical issues of finance and church. The evening was free but the band still had to be paid and the club itself, but there was no collection or anything similar. The principle is that the Gospel should be free. Where does the money come from ? Grants from the Baptist Union. Church of England, and also from the local council, as well as personal donations from interested supporters give a backbone to the work, but its a real hand to mouth existence.
The flak from the established church sometimes come in the question of “wheres the Sunday evidence ? an accusation leveled at many different types of work in many different churches up and down the land. I asked how James and Wendy gauged success. They saw success in terms of the local councils support for the work, by seeing the numbers increasing week by week and by seeing relationships developing.
Advertising is largely by word of mouth or by the internet. They have their own website http://www.solace-cardiff.org.uk/ and also advertise on www.myspace.com so if you`re going to Cardiff over a Sunday why not lok them up and have a bar experience of Church. I`m glad I did and I would love to go again and take some others with me.
Thanks James and Wendy for all your time, support and every blessing on you and your work.
I want to close with some famous words that were displayed on a screen over the performance area at the beginning of the night, while people were milling around. You might recognise them………………………….
“Are you tired, worn out
burned out with religion.
Get away with me and
you`ll recover your life”