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In Praise of Love

“In Praise of Love” was the theme for the Patronal Festival weekend at St. Luke’s church, Matfield.  There were a number of creative ideas at work to encourage community engagement and to invite people to visit ‘their’ church over the weekend.  Bev Barsley explains what happened.

Our theme for our Festival Weekend came about by thinking about inviting all those couples who had been married, or had their weddings blessed, at St. Luke’s Church.  We wrote emails asking for their photographs and love stories, and in particular, where they met, why they chose to get married at St. Luke’s church, what was memorable and special about their day and anything funny which happened.

Out of the 40 emails I sent out, we had enthusiastic replies from about 20 couples willing to share their special memories.

On the Sunday Service, we were delighted to welcome back to the Church some of the wedding couples who had shared their stories.  They brought their children along too and it was a good way for them to make a connection again with St. Luke’s church family.

To advertise the weekend “In Praise of Love” I contacted all the businesses, pubs and societies in the village and gave them each an A4 sized heart and asked them to colour it in however they wished and to put the name of their organisation or society inside the heart somewhere.   Then put it up in their window.

The idea was to have as many hearts around the village as possible and was a good way to advertise our festival weekend. We also advertised in the local magazine Roundabout, the local Brenchley & Matfield News and on Facebook.

Everyone, both young to old, was encouraged to search out as many hearts as they could find in the village.  Photograph them or write down where they had seen them and then on the Saturday of the Festival Weekend there would be prizes for those who had found the most hearts.

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On a large piece of card, I drew St. Luke’s Church and surrounded it by hearts of various sizes and bible scripture reflecting God’s love and these symbolically spread out across the card from the church into the community, our society, our culture and our world.  The ribbons of scripture threading their way through the hearts. Everyone who came into church coloured in some hearts on the card and left their names on a heart jigsaw which was next to the picture.  I understand someone counted all the hearts I had drawn and there were over 550 hearts!

On Saturday morning, a village walking group left Matfield Green and came up to the church for coffee and to see the displays in Church.   There were over 50 people and 10 dogs and it was good to see so many people in the Church looking at all the wedding photographs.   There were beautiful flower arrangements on the window sills reflecting wedding colours and a wedding dress and bridesmaid dress on display.

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As part of the weekend, I made nearly 100 porcelain hearts with a cross on them and they were blessed and given to everyone who came to the Festival Service on the Sunday.   At my ceramics class, I was amazed at how many people wanted to know about what I was making them for and what was happening at the Church.   On many occasions I was asked “Have you had your Festival Weekend with the hearts yet?”.  Such an easy way to begin discussing Church at a pottery class and many deep conversations came while cutting out and making all the hearts.

We had a wedding cake made especially for the weekend and this was cut and eaten with coffee after the service.

We all felt very blessed by the Holy Spirit as we sung wedding hymns and shared together the joy of God’s love and I was delighted so many people enjoyed “In Praise of Love” which connected to our community and beyond.

It was a wonderful creative theme for a Festival Weekend.

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