Dear Friends

A few weeks ago, Freemantle URC celebrated its first café service since I've been there. To be honest, it was the first cafe service I've ever led, so I can't tell you whether or not it was a proper one - Chandlers Ford might be able to help me here! We sat around tables (with lovely lacy tablecloths); we called ourselves to worship by the lighting of tealights on each table; we confessed our sins by helping Shaun the Sheep get back home through a maze (well, it was Good Shepherd Sunday) and instead of a sermon each table had its own discussion of our Bible passage. But for our Communion I said all the usual words before we shared the usual small cubes of bread.

Bread is something I feel strongly about. Since I was given a breadmaker a few years ago I've eaten my own bread most weeks. Thinking of the smell of new-baked bread makes me smile. But other sorts of bread also make me lick my lips. German Brötchen make me think of summer holidays as a child, trying out my first few words of a foreign language in the campsite shop. Pizza and foccacia, scones and brioche, croissants and toast...

I remember another service: the Maundy Thursday Passover meal we celebrated at Isaac Watts this year, our plates piled high with homemade unleavened bread. Not only delicious but symbolic, reminding us of slave labour, of hurried escape, of God's freedom. And as Christians we remembered too Jesus' words: this bread is my body, given for you.

Bread is important. Without its nourishment, we cannot live. The same could be said of worship. And of course I don't only mean the hour or so we spend in church on Sundays. I mean that attitude to life which gives God true worth in all that we do, whether we're doing the crossword or bathing a baby.

Recently in Avenue St Andrew's Elders we were talking about prayer outside church. For some, that meant a quiet moment alone at the beginning or the end of the day. For others, meeting with friends to share joys and sorrows in prayer out loud. For yet others, silently chatting with God whatever we do - this also involves listening! But prayer may not always involve words. For me, photography, through which I marvel at the beauty and the strangeness of creation in close-up, can also be a form of prayer.

As we talked, I realised all over again how God communicates with each of us uniquely; but how the underlying message is always the same: I love you; I want you to love me. And the ways we respond in worship are like all the many different forms of bread: you like some, and tolerate others; and maybe you are allergic to a few.

Avenue St Andrew's and Freemantle have both decided to use gluten-free bread at Communion so that no one will be left out. But going back to the cafe communion, what about different forms of communal worship? Should we be sticking to the tried and tested - like my breadmaker bread - or should we also try out new forms, that we may find good or that others may value? We may like some and be allergic to others. We may differ as to what forms of worship are nourishing and what are empty calories. But of course our worship is not for us alone, but for anyone who comes through our doors, hungry for the bread of life. And for God who, I suspect, doesn't care about the format – if it's from our hearts.

Sarah Hall