This mornings Baptist Times article on the latest St St idea…
9.00 Sunday morning and I load my car up with a table, sign, and all the stuff needed to hand out hundreds of pieces of fresh sliced bread.
9.30 As I drive towards Peterborough I ponder this morning’s ‘Saints on the Street’ project. As I head closer towards the city I pray and give thanks to God for the idea I have for today that I nicked from the first-year Light Team students based in Chester. I feel slightly naughty for not coming up with an original thought, but am confident it will work nonetheless.
10.00 I meet Joel from Park Road Baptist Church, and we unload the car. He is the first of a few volunteers I have today. I rush off to Greggs to pick up my order of 40 large loaves of fresh warm bread.
10.05 I return to Joel and as I approach him he shouts ‘I think you’ve forgotten something!’ I reply, ‘I think Greggs forgot something, more like.’ I explain that when I had cheerfully walked in to the shop to pick up my bread I was greeted with an unhappy ‘There’s been a mess up with your order!’ However, they promise to sort something out.
10.20 The bakery improvised and rustled together as much fresh bread as possible, from large and small loaves. As I leave the shop with a large trolley to return to our stall I notice that the shelves in Greggs are completely empty of bread!
10.25 We set up our free bread stall with 30 loaves of deliciously smelling bread that has been freshly sliced. We set out our jars of Nutella and strawberry jam and tubs of butter. Because of the cold, the Nutella is rock hard.
10.30 The local Costa coffee shop agrees to warm up our chocolate spread!
10.40 We serve our first customer, who recognises me from the streets and my work as city centre chaplain. We talk for a while and she is grateful to have a treat of some warm bread with chocolate spread.
11.00 After serving bread to around 30 people Joel and I touch base and we notice that ‘Jesus, the best things since…’ which is our main point of advertising what we do, doesn’t make much sense to people at all. Most people who have been brought up in England pre-80s would probably get what it means. However, out of the Latvian, Polish, Ukrainian, Pakistani, Indian, Sudanese, Nigerian and Chinese people who have frequented our stall so far, ‘Best thing since sliced bread’ just doesn’t translate too well. Furthermore, it doesn’t mean much to people under 25. So more than half the people I meet who I seek to ‘connect’ the good news of Jesus with just don’t get the connection.
11.45 Despite the meaning being somewhat lost in translation, people still seem to have appreciated the free gift of bread. Mind you, this is my experience on quite a regular basis as I do evangelism in different cities. People appreciate the free gift or symbol of the good news message, and are often very happy to ask questions while tucking into a free muffin or apple or hot cross bun or slice of bread smothered with Nutella.
12.30 We have been serving slices of bread to more than 200 people. I reflect on the morning and am encouraged by some comments on the way the message was communicated. ‘Relaxed,’ one man said. ‘You allow people to ask for more information, I like it,’ said a lady who stopped in the middle of doing her shopping.
2.00 It’s time to clear up and pack the car. We have 10 loaves of bread left. I take some to the guys busking and selling The Big Issue and we hand out the rest to people enquiring what we are doing.
2.15 I head back home. Overall I feel chuffed with a good Sunday morning and lots of positive engagement with people. I do feel slightly silly that the idea I nicked from The Light Project students was lost on most of the people I met today, yet the simple gesture meant a lot to most of those I spoke to.
What could you give to people on a Sunday morning that shows something of what you believe?