Singing from a different hymn book

PUBLISHED: 15:16 14 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:50 03 March 2010

PREACHING to pub-goers will fulfil the dream of one Suffolk vicar on Sunday – complete with karaoke-style hymns and a backdrop of live sport on television.

PREACHING to pub-goers will fulfil the dream of one Suffolk vicar on Sunday – complete with karaoke-style hymns and a backdrop of live sport on television.

Parishioners in Kesgrave, near Ipswich, can purchase pints to accompany their prayer books when a unique church service is held at The Farmhouse pub on the town's Grange Farm estate.

Rev Robin Spittle, vicar of All Saints Church of England on Main Road, said he was "very excited" about the realisation of his alehouse assignment which has attracted "tremendous" interest.

"I had the idea that I wanted the church to be more like a pub – the atmosphere, the friendship and the conviviality. That's what the church should be about, but often the church building inhibits people from being like that," he said.

"In my dreams, the church would have facilities for food and sport on TV but people have pointed out it would be a bit daft if that was already provided somewhere else – the pub."

So Mr Spittle, 44, arranged for an additional service at The Farmhouse, starting at 11.15am and ending at noon, just in time for the bar opening.

"Once the service has finished, people are welcome to stay, mill about, have a drink and some food. I'm really excited about it and if it takes off we'll do it more regularly," he said.

"When the Church makes the effort to go where people are, they welcome it and listen to it. We think the Christian message is extremely relevant in the 21st Century and, by bringing that message to the local pub, we're asking people to meet us halfway."

The pub's PA system will be pumping out hymns for the service with pre-recorded singing. "People can just listen if they want or join in – as they might do with karaoke. It will be like karaoke hymns," he said.

The religious regulars will be back at the pub on December 9 for a carol service and Mr Spittle hopes the travelling event could become monthly, either at the pub or another location such as a local school where the "comfortable setting" and pub atmosphere can be generated.

"We have had positive feedback from the congregation and I've been amazed at the enthusiasm shown by pub regulars," said Mr Spittle. "I don't know how many people we can get into the pub but I hope there will be a nice mix of non-Church people and the normal congregation."

He stressed that services would run as normal at All Saints for regular worshippers and those who do not fancy a visit to the pub before lunchtime on Sunday. But Mr Spittle, who has been at Kesgrave for two-and-a half years, said his public house plan was a step towards his intention to make the Church "much more accessible".

The manager of The Farmhouse, Brenda Allitt, said: "After speaking to Robin, he realised that there was another Sunday morning 'congregation' in Kesgrave. So we've decided to give him a chance of stealing some of them."

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