Launched in the autumn of 2013, Platform 2 is a multigenerational congregation at St Hilda’s church, offering cafe-style worship service that is appropriate for the whole family.
Similar to many congregations, St Hilda’s was searching for new ways to accommodate the needs of young families within the structure of their existing service, before the launch of Platform 2, the majority of parents were choosing to stay with their children in their Sunday School groups rather than return to the main service. Many of the parents attending St Hilda’s are in full-time employment, therefore time spent together over the weekend is very precious and this includes church. The parents attending St Hilda’s didn’t want Sunday to be another day when they weren’t with their kids and were choosing to stay with their children so they could attend church together as a family unit. Some of these parents were also new to church and found the teaching at the children’s groups more accessible than the existing church service. These factors, accompanied by the fact that the church building was not hospitable to All Age worship, coupled with the inevitable church struggle within almost every congregation of how to include children in the service without significant disruption that both stresses parents out and upsets other congregation members led to the conclusion that something needed to change.
Having an existing and successful model to learn from within our Diocese provided a foundation from which Jane, the PCC and the congregation at St Hilda’s could begin to imagine the potential of what could be.
Having attempted a few different solutions, Rev Jane Durham continued to ask the question of how to respond to this challenge and contacted Richard White about the Zone 2 congregation in the Cathedral. Launched in 2011 Zone 2 is a multigenerational congregation and Jane and Richard worked together to explore whether the model of this All Age, cafe-style worship could be replicated within the Parish church. Having an existing and successful model to learn from within our Diocese provided a foundation from which Jane, the PCC and the congregation at St Hilda’s could begin to imagine the potential of what could be.
After 9 months of meetings with the PCC and Richard White, Jane gathered a team from the congregation who were interested in making this happen, Platform 2 was launched in the autumn of 2013. As with any significant new initiative within an existing church structure Jane had to ensure the vision was communicated clearly and that the congregation understood both the need for this new congregation as well as where it fitted into the life of the church. She was meticulous in her use of language to ensure Platform 2 was seen as a new congregation and not an add-on to ‘real’ church. Rather than use different words to describe the two meetings Jane decided to call the existing congregation Platform 1 and the new congregation Platform 2. Inspired by the location of St Hilda’s church that backs onto Hunts Cross station, Jane shared a picture of two different trains at two different platforms, a picture that was then expanded upon by a congregation member commenting that although the picture showed two different trains and different platforms the railway lines were both going in the same direction. Platform is not 2 designed to feed people back into the existing congregation of Platform 1, both congregations were church, both created to gather people to worship God but just different in their approach and style.
Platform is not 2 designed to feed people back into the existing congregation of Platform 1, both congregations were church, both created to gather people to worship God but just different in their approach and style.
Although Platform 2 doesn’t necessarily always start at 11 am on the dot, it runs at the same time as Platform 1 in the church hall attached to the main church building. With an informal beginning of drinks, toast, biscuits and conversation, there is then a time of sharing stories as they prepare for worship, a couple of songs are then followed by confession using actions and then the reading and ‘think about it’ presentation. Rather than a talk or sermon the ‘think about it’ section is an interactive exploration of the Bible text for 5-6 minutes that then leads into prayer stations and the opportunity to process and talk about the message shared. Following this there is a time of interactive intercessions. The service then ends with some more songs of worship. Every part of Platform 2 is designed for all ages, there is never a moment in the service just for adults or children, creating a unique space for all ages to pray, learn and worship together side by side throughout the whole service.
Platform 2 has completely transformed people’s vision of church and what it could be like and they’ve found a place they belong and really enjoy being a part of and they miss it when it’s not on.
The addition of Platform 2 has also changed the composition of Platform 1. Some families still attend Platform 1 whilst Platform 2 has attracted a range of ages and not just young families. At first the separation of the two congregations took some adjustment and the PCC worked to ensure there were still points throughout the year when both congregations worship together. Mother’s Day and Pentecost are now hosted by Platform 2. Once a month a joint service is held at Platform 1 and during the summer there is one service that alternates between the two locations. The adjustment to the Platform 1 style of service has been harder for some of the Platform 2 congregation members to adjust to, but much of this is a result of how Platform 2 has completely transformed people’s vision of church and what it could be like and they’ve found a place they belong and really enjoy being a part of and they miss it when it’s not on.
St Hilda’s is not a big church, it’s not flashy and it doesn’t have a lot of resources but Platform 2 was started by a small group of extraordinary people who turned this vision into something that works and connects with people who weren’t previously engaging with church.
The vision for Platform 2 and the fact that the inspiration was taken from an existing congregation did not guarantee its success. St Hilda’s is not a big church, it’s not flashy and it doesn’t have a lot of resources but Platform 2 was started by a small group of extraordinary people who turned this vision into something that works and connects with people who weren’t previously engaging with church.
One Sunday last summer St Hilda’s hosted four ordinands who split their time between the two congregations. Their tutor commented that when they had reflected back about their morning at St Hilda’s these students all commented on how Platform 1 and Platform 2 were both doing the same thing but in different ways. Despite the initial concern about splitting into two congregations, the creation of Platform 2 has not devalued or diminished the role of Platform 1, they are both church but they look different. This conclusion does not mean Platform 2 has realised its vision, now that it has an established congregation this extraordinary group of normal people are continuing to dream about what could be as they explore ways to develop more opportunities for deeper discipleship, from midweek to getting more volunteers involved on a Sunday as well as seeking to connect with more people in their local community.