Virtual Cafe Story

A transcendent vision

Last year, when the roof of our usual venue was being re-done, we migrated to York Minster crypt for a few months. We loved the space, and opportunities to meet new people that came from being in the Minster, although it was quite hard work doing a full service set-up every week.

Out of this though, an idea was born. What if we teamed up with the Minster once a month and created a new Fresh Expression. One that combined the best of what Visions and the Minster had to offer. Stunning music, amazing visuals, liturgy with depth and passion combined with futuristic technology and a transcendent atmosphere of powerful approachable-otherness. An Ancient-Future Mass.

So we talked a bit, waited a bit, prayed a bit, and came up with a plan to try two of these services, one in the first Sunday in October and one in the first Sunday in November and just see what happens. It was hard in a sense to imagine what it might be like, unless we actually tried it. Sometimes you just need to learn how to do something by doing it.

Well we had the first one last Sunday and it was completely amazing! It was worship but it definitely wasn’t common (although we did “play it by the book”).I was so excited Sunday night I could hardly sleep!

Visions, the community/service I work for has been going as a community since 1989, so I’ve kind of forgotten what it was like to start something new and have that initial excitement and fear.

It’s called Transcendence, and the aim is to create a more Catholic Flavoured Fresh Expression, because there seemed to be nothing going on in our end of the world that fitted the bill really. There’s lots of Cafe Church, children’s church, stuff in schools, informal stuff etc, but nothing that had that Transcendent vibe. So we thought it might be worth exploring. Plus there are lots of things already in place to begin something like this. The Minster is a shop-window for spiritual seekers. You don’t need to shift the service into public space, because the Minster *is* public space. And, within Visions and in the Minster itself, there are two communities already in existence to provide support.

One of the things I loved about it, was that, as well as ambient music, and our usual visuals, DJ’s, chilled beats and ritual stuff, we were lucky enough to have 4 of the Minster’s professional choristers on board. So we could have *live* plainchant and Renaissance harmony stuff as part of the mix. They sang a Kyrie, a psalm, a Sanctus and a piece during communion, and especially within that space and that candlelit atmosphere they were completely mind-bogglingly brilliant! We also had two familiar songs that everyone could join in with, new settings of the old hymns “Be Thou My Vision” and “Let all Mortal Flesh”.

We had a prayer activity involving rocks “What mountains do you want God to shift for you?” which we presented at the altar, and the climax, as ever, was the Bread-Wine Body- Blood-Mystery connecting us, not just to Christ and each other, but across history to the hoards of Christians who have worshipped in that place across days and months, centuries up to one and a half millenia and more. It makes me realise what an amazing priviledge we have, and yet what a huge responsibility, singing the next verse of the Great Story and Song to those who have not yet heard the tune, with a certain freedom to improvise, but in such a way that the Song is not lost.

Anyway if you want to see some more pics, check out my blog, and if you’re up north, come and check it out. We’re certainly not short of space! If the crypt fills up, we can just move upstairs!

Sue Wallace