Anyone fancying a cuppa in the Carrickfergus area on a Thursday morning can pop into the Holy Trinity Woodburn Fellowship Café, which has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary.
This not-for-profit initiative provides an opportunity for fellowship over a cup of tea to parishioners, visitors from other local churches, and from even further afield. Over the past four years it has also raised £14,000 for more than 40 charities.
The Fellowship Café is run by Anne and Maurice Langley and a team of volunteers. “Every Thursday, after we have set up, we spend a short time in prayer asking for God’s blessings and thanking Him for the opportunities that will arise,” Maurice said.
Visitors are warmly welcomed and can select what they would like to eat and drink. “There are no charges for our refreshments, instead we offer the opportunity to donate, if they wish. If not then the refreshments are a gift from us.”
Maurice, Anne and the team keep an eye out to ensure no one is isolated. “If we notice anyone on their own or the conversation has dried up we sit with them and share fellowship,” Maurice said.
Some of the food is provided by members of Holy Trinity Woodburn, and some is purchased from local outlets. Money donated is used to recover any costs, then all other profits are passed to local, national and international worthy causes.
Anne and Maurice were prompted to establish the Fellowship Café after helping with a tour by a Fields of Life Children’s Choir in 2013. “During this concert tour we visited several churches in Northern Ireland. Some were ‘dead’, some healthy, and some were vibrant. The vibrant churches all had areas for coffee and fellowship,” Maurice said.
“Although our own church provided coffee after the Sunday services, we felt God was prompting us to provide something extra during the week. Our Youth Fellowship renovated one of the rooms in our building to include a coffee bar, and on Thursday April 10 2014 we opened our doors for the first time.”
The original set up was funded by members of the congregation.
“We stood behind the counter praying somebody would walk through the doors. The rest is history!”
Despite the success of the past four years, Maurice says the café remains ‘a humble fellowship café.’ “We have grown in our ability to provide our aim, but we remain humbled by the blessings we have received,” he explained. “We have become well known and respected within our local community simply by doing what we enjoy doing. We accept praise, but to God goes all the glory. On the growth side we now have seven front-line volunteer staff and a ‘small army’ of other casual helpers.”
The café’s popularity is down to the warmth and friendliness of the welcome; the choice of refreshments; the relaxed atmosphere; the comfortable seating area; the simplicity and concept of the occasion; and the friendly caring volunteer staff.
“We have our regular visitors who see the café as part of their week,” Maurice said. Visitors have also come from much further afield, including the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany.
“We recently had a visit from three strangers. When we got chatting to them they revealed they were ‘spies’ from another church within the town checking out how we run the café because they were planning to set their own up. We took that as a huge compliment!” Maurice said.
“As volunteers we enjoy the fellowship among ourselves. We enjoy getting to know members of our congregation. We particularly enjoy the fellowship with strangers and the opportunities put before us to speak of Jesus Christ and to be good and faithful servants to God.
“Being part of the team has also been a source of comfort and encouragement when we are experiencing difficult times in our lives.”