"We are out there as a Church, with nothing to hide behind, and that is also exciting!"
Bridge Cafe is an exciting part of our local mission as a Church. Led by Jon Swales a team serve free drinks and cake to the passers-by on the Bridge and outside the Church. It’s a busy thoroughfare, where a huge range of people walk each day; business workers, shoppers, students, homeless people, family visitors to the Hospital. All have a different reason for passing, coming and going to different places, so what a great opportunity to actively show love to our city.
David (2nd to right) and Julia (right) Thompson are involved in Bridge Cafe; Julia since summer 2012 and David in more recent months. They share their experience with us:
Why did you decide to get involved with Bridge Cafe?
David: With more time since retiring I was looking for things to do, connected with people. I worked as a dentist so was always meeting people, and getting to know people well; I missed this, but Bridge Cafe was a good place to meet new people as well as sharing Jesus’ love too.
Julia: I started last summer, just out of curiosity really, after reading about it in St George’s LIFE. David: It’s a great way of getting to know people; people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. There’s a huge cross section of people on the bridge, just like in a Dentist’s practice, and I was very aware that it can be very easy just to mix with Christian friends and not with a wider range of people. It’s something we can enjoy doing together as a couple!
What does Bridge Cafe involve?
David: We chat to passers-by, sometimes just give out a cup of tea, but other times will have some great conversations. It’s pleasing to actively serve the people of Leeds and brighten up their day.
Julia: Bridge Cafe is a signpost to other things such as The Alpha Course and Christmas events, etc. But, generally chatting to different people, about all sorts of things, depending who you meet; sometimes we offer prayer, other times have little conversation at all, but people are usually curious as to why we’re doing Bridge Cafe. One time that stands out was when I responded to this question with ‘we’re Christians’, a girl began to ask all sorts of other questions about God and the Trinity. Sometimes people do want to tell you what they think about God too! I was reminded that people are walking around our city with many questions that they may never get chance to ask!
What challenges have you faced?
Julia: I’d never really offered to pray with complete strangers before, but I found this Ok! One of the biggest challenges is also the biggest excitement I think; when people ask ‘why are you doing this?’ There’s a safe way and bold way to answer this question. It makes me wonder ‘why am I doing this?’
David: One of the most challenging things was before the first time I helped out; I was very anxious about how people would react. Putting yourself forward can be a scary thing. People see that we are doing something for them, it’s not always you get something without ‘strings attached’.
Julia: People often comment ‘just how lovely it is’; and that’s a great thing for the Church to do. They don’t have to be in dire need to receive what Bridge Cafe can offer; it’s there to serve everyone. We are out there as a Church, with nothing to hide behind, and that is also exciting!
Where is God working?
David: God has helped me out in unexpected ways. Sometimes knowing what to say, or how to approach people can be challenging, but one time I was speaking to a girl who began to tell me about a dental issue - how convenient - the conversation was easy and I was clearly the right person for her to speak to. The girl then also began to talk about her job interview and other things, because she was at ease. Sometimes we have great conversations, but even if we’re just handing out a cup of coffee, God is working through that. I don’t know whether she got the job, but I hope she did.
What would you say to others that are thinking about getting involved?
Julia: It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment, it’s quite easy to drop in and out. Although we do have some regular visitors, there are plenty of new faces every time we are there!
David: Pray about it! See whether it’s right for you. You’re not alone; God helps you out and it’s really good to be part of a team.