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16 February 2010

Church in a Cheltenham pub seeks to build authentic Christian community

Church in a Cheltenham pub seeks to build authentic Christian community

Most people associate church with stained glass windows, old buildings with spires, and rows of wooden pews. But Howard Kellett of Cheltenham is confounding that stereotype by holding church meetings in a decidedly less formal setting: a pub.

Kellett leads Godfirst Church Cheltenham, which meets on Wednesdays in the upper room of D'Fly Bar and Restaurant. He says that the philosophy behind the initiative is that the church is not the building, but the people. In fact, he points out, the original word for church literally means "crowd."

"It's a perfect place for a church meeting. It takes church back to its roots," said Kellett. "An upper room is where Jesus would meet with his followers, long before Christianity built buildings and drew parish boundaries around them."

One of the reasons Kellett decided to start Godfirst was his realisation that churches in the UK are closing at the rate of one per fortnight, and that the UK is going to need many new churches to replace them. The leadership team has been gathering for four months and began meeting this month at D'Fly. Godfirst now has 15 members and is looking to grow.

Bishop's Cleeve vicar, The Rev Mike Holloway, said he approved of worshipping outside of the church.

"When Jesus was on the Earth he did not turn up in the places people expected him and quite often got in trouble for it - so if going to a club is wrong that might well have been where he would go," he said.

"The early followers of Jesus were less concerned with building church buildings than building authentic communities that loved God and gave hope to the despairing, friendship to the stranger, and brought good news to the poor," Kellett commented. "That's our aim at Godfirst Church."

Godfirst meets every other Wednesday 7:45pm at D'Fly Bar and Restaurant, 1 A Crescent Place Cheltenham GL50 3NX. Godfirst is part of the New Frontiers network. For more details visit www.godfirst.org.uk.