Church replaces sermons with coffee and a chat

Russel Moffat is looking to encourage chat at St Martin's 'cafe church'. Picture: Esme Allen

Russel Moffat is looking to encourage chat at St Martin's 'cafe church'. Picture: Esme Allen

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A COFFEE and a chat are set to replace traditional sermons when a city church adopts a new informal approach to match its new building.

St Martin’s Parish Church, which serves the communities of Magdalene and Bingham, is to be styled as a “café church” with no pews or pulpit.

Minister the Rev Dr Russel Moffat said: “As soon as people come in they will get a coffee and sit at tables rather than in rows. It’s more informal and there will be more interaction between people and from the front.

“I might start off and there could be discussion and then people could speak out on what they had been discussing rather than a long sermon with no feedback.”

Dr Moffat plans to hold café church sessions on one Sunday per month to start with. “We’ll try to have different types of service throughout the month,” he added. “It’s an experiment – we are open to trying things.”

The building in Magdalene Drive is the Church of Scotland’s first new church in Edinburgh for 22 years. The first Sunday service will take place tomorrow following a special opening ceremony on Tuesday.

Dr Moffat said: “The church has been living in the 19th century for a long time with people coming and sitting in pews and everything takes place by the clergy at the front.

“But in the 21st century it’s more about people coming together to share life experiences and how faith ties in with that. There has to be interaction.”

The new building, which features multi-coloured brick facing and a striking sloping roof, replaces the old St Martin’s, which was built in 1957, but was too large and becoming a drain on resources.

Cruden Homes and Port of Leith Housing Association acquired the site from the Church of Scotland to build 23 affordable homes with a smaller church building on the corner.

Dr Moffat said: “It’s a bit like Doctor Who’s Tardis in that it looks small on the outside, but when you come in, the height they’ve given us in the sanctuary is really brilliant.”

The congregation met in Brunstane Primary for 18 months while demolition and construction was under way.

Churches downsize

ST Martin’s is not the first city church to downsize to a new building as part of a housing development.

The last church built by the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh was St Colm’s Parish Church on Dalry Road in 1991. The old church was demolished to make way for St Colm’s sheltered housing complex and the new church.

And in 2007, Duke Street United Reformed Church in Leith got a new base inside a block of flats as part of a new Port of Leith Housing Association development.

A 1ft-thick ceiling packed with insulation material was included in the design to prevent neighbours being wakened by organ music.