Godspeed: Welsh church to offer 15 minute ‘micro services’

<span>The Rev John Gillibrand: ‘We’ll also be providing a cup of tea if anyone wants to stay on.’</span><span>Photograph: The Church in Wales</span>
The Rev John Gillibrand: ‘We’ll also be providing a cup of tea if anyone wants to stay on.’Photograph: The Church in Wales

The prospect of sitting on a hard pew enduring a drawn-out service with, perhaps, a meandering sermon at its heart, puts off many would-be church-goers.

But a Welsh church is determined to draw in worshippers who feel they don’t have the time or endurance by staging punchy “micro services”.

The first “15 Minute Church” service will take place at St David’s church in Penllergaer, Swansea, on Monday afternoon.

The Rev John Gillibrand, the vicar of Pontarddulais with Penllergaer, said the aim was to make church more accessible.

“We’re very mindful of work pressures on family and working life in contemporary society,” he said. “So the idea is to provide people with an opportunity to have a full engagement with the church, but within 15 minutes.”

Gillibrand said the time – 4.45pm – was designed partly with commuters in mind as the church is close to the M4 so might attract passing traffic.

The service will be bang on 15 minutes – not a minute more or less. Gillibrand said: “The first five minutes will be a bit of introduction and a text, a Bible reading. Then the second part, the middle part, will be talking about ways of praying and some stuff about how to find peace in the middle of a busy world.

“And then five minutes of actually doing it, doing some prayer. And then at the end, it’ll be possible for people to get on their way without any embarrassment. But we’ll also be providing a cup of tea if anyone wants to stay on afterwards – as we say in Wales, a paned.”

Gillibrand said there was enthusiasm for the idea. “I’m a priest with 36 years service. So, I know how change-resistant church congregations can be, but when I introduced the concept to the church committee there was very enthusiastic support, positive feedback and a willingness to experiment.

“There’s also awareness in the wider community as well. I was talking to a parishioner who said that his neighbours who haven’t got particular church connections have been asking him about it. So there’s positive feedback both from within the church and outside.”

Gillibrand has been in “wonderful” services that went on for hours. “I like any length of service as long as the presence of God is the thing.

“Obviously, I don’t think this is the only way of accessing the church and we’ll still be carrying on with our longer services. And although we’ve gone for 4.45 time slots on Monday, if any group or individual contacts me asking for different time slots, I’d very much be able to gear it around people’s needs.”

The church holds about 80 people. Gillibrand said he did not know how full it might be. “The important thing is to get it started and then see how things develop. I’m looking forward to welcoming anyone who wants to come.”