In the fall of 1999 the Orillia Mission decided to hold an outreach event which would:
- allow us to invite friends and family to a non-threatening social gathering in a church setting,
- allow them to see Lutherans as regular people who have fun together,
- present the message of Christmas in a relaxed and comfortable way, with the hope that folks might then feel moved to join us for worship. We came up with the idea of an "Advent Café" to be held on a Sunday afternoon in early December in the church hall.
We are a small group and we wanted to use our strengths: gifted musicians and good cooks. We engaged a local musical group to be our featured performers and we advertised with flyers in public venues, stores and workplaces.
We also invited individuals and groups from the congregation to perform as well. Our regular pianist accompanied the singers and led us in favourite carols. Members of the congregation baked Christmas cookies, cakes and squares. We served hot apple cider, coffee and tea and decorated the hall for the season. We presented a stick puppet version of the first Christmas story—geared for the children, but meant for all ages.
That first Café was so well-received that it has become an annual event. We have had a variety of musical guests and different teaching opportunities. Last year the Sunday school taught the meaning of the Advent Wreath. The Parents & Tots group decorated the church hall with a life-size crèche and painted scenery to represent the inn and the stable. We even included door prizes—Bibles.
We have practised our hospitality, witnessed in music, story and art, and we have gained a family of four who started coming regularly after the second Advent Café. We hope this year's Café allows us once again to tell of God's wonderful love for us in the Incarnation.
Holy Cross Mission, Orillia Ontario
PS This year's event is to be held Sunday December 15. See you there!
Want to try it at your congregation? Here's a checklist to get you started.