Having moved around a little, the church currently meets in the cafe of Lambeth College. Its humble modern glass and blue panelled appearance is in stark contrast to the grand Roman Catholic church next door. This makes it very easy to miss for the casual passer-by. Though it is not well signposted, just follow the sound of the music as soon as you walk in the door.
Beacon Church was set up in 2007 as a daughter church of Kings Church in Catford. They are also part of Brixton Churches Together and contribute to the local food bank. They sponsor an Alpha course as well as a variety of spiritual and social groups.
Brixton is one of the liveliest areas in London. Situated at the southern end of the Victoria line and serviced by a number of bus routes, it's very easy to get to. The area had a bit of a bad reputation based on past troubles, but that is being dispelled. Brixton is now considered quite fashionable, with rising property prices to match. There's always something going on there; just walking down the road, I passed a nightclub that was turning people out at 10.00am on a Sunday morning!
There wasn't much information given, even when I asked. I did catch, though, that the preacher was Dan Frammingham. The pastor and elders were away on the day I visited.
What was the name of the service?Sunday Service.
How full was the building?
The cafe was fairly full and extra chairs had to be pulled out. At a quick count, I think there were about 50-60 people in total, though this dropped when the children went out for Sunday school.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. There was a small welcoming team who all had their names on lanyards. I was given a couple of very professional-looking leaflets and introduced to some of the congregation.
Was your pew comfortable?
We had standard college cafe chairs, which are cheap medium-density fibreboard on metal legs. They were more comfortable than a standard pew, but not exactly plush.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Very friendly. They serve breakfast up to the start of service, so I had a cup of coffee and a chat with some people. There were also crumpets and croissants on offer. The early birds here don't so much catch the worm as catch the pain au chocolat. The only interruption was the worship band practicing, which occasionally got so loud you couldn't hear the conversation.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning all. We welcome you here to Beacon Church."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were no books. All the songs were on screen, as were most of the scriptures used. The New International version of the Bible appeared on screen, though the preacher read from a different translation, possibly the New King James, though I'm not certain about that.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, a rather impressive-looking nine-string bass guitar, and drums.
Did anything distract you?
Being this is a college cafe, there were lots of things stuck on notice boards and walls that one could read and look at. Nearest my eye-line was a picture of a rather tasty-looking trifle.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Modern and meditative. There was nothing particularly happy-clappy here, but rather modern hymns. It was actually a lot more peaceful than the pre-service warm-up led me to expect. There were also impromptu prayers of praise from a few members of the congregation.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Dan Frammingham had clearly researched his material well. He presented it in a down-to-earth manner, sparingly using visual aids to good effect. He was also refreshingly honest about his own regrets and mistakes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
What it means to be a new creation. His text was 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (the message of reconciliation), especially verse 17 ("Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"). He used a pair of coats to illustrate what Martin Luther called the "great exchange": Christ "has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them."
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
As part of a promotion for a forthcoming Alpha course, which was being run by a number of churches in Brixton, one lady gave her testimony of how she ended up going as part of dare from her friends ten years earlier, in spite of thinking that it was a reading course for adults. It was a great encouragement to hear how God uses the most unlikely of people.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The songs on the projector were littered with spelling and punctuation mistakes. Initially, it wasn't lined up correctly either, cutting off the right hand edge of some lines, which resulted in one line being altered from "Praise your name" to "Praise your nan."
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people came up to me and say hello. We had coffee and biscuits and chatted for quite some time. Topics varied from the benefits of living alone vs sharing a house, the history of the local cinema, and reasons why we weren't Anglicans.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was largely help yourself, though a member of the welcome team poured me a drink. It was fairly low-budget instant coffee, served in polystyrene cups, a slightly tasteless combination. This was made up for by a decent selection of biscuits, including the shortbread finger I had.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – Though the leaders were all away, there was a great mix of worship and teaching, in a very informal, relaxed atmosphere. The only thing that put me off was one person I spoke to afterwards trying to "sell" it to me, which never has the intended effect.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It was marvellously welcoming, and not meeting in a traditional church building often helps those who are less comfortable about walking into a church. If I were a regular here, I would be happy to invite non-Christian friends along.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Probably the very stimulating conversations that took place at the end of the service.