A fresh expression of church in Hersham is hitting the right note with members of the community, Christians and non-Christians alike, with its monthly relaxation sessions set to music.
Billed as “an oasis of calm in a busy world”, ‘Music to Calm the Soul’ at St Peter’s church was established in October 2016 and regularly sees an average attendance of 75 – many of whom don’t attend church at any other time. Over the course of an hour in the beautiful candlelit church, attendees unwind to soothing sounds and relaxing classical music, designed to ease away the stresses and strains of the week.
The music evenings are led by Sarah Tourell, St Peter’s Parish Administrator and the visionary behind the idea. She said:
“‘Music to Calm the Soul’ is an escape for anyone who wants to take time out in a place of peace, quiet and tranquillity, where our own clamour is silenced and the presence of God can be savoured, if only for a moment. Everyone is welcome, regardless of faith.”
The idea for the evenings came to Sarah when she was trying to decide how to deal with someone whose behaviour upset her. She explained:
“One evening while I was sat listening to Classic FM, thinking about what I was going to do about it, a piece of music came on the radio that made me stop and think. It was so beautiful that it made the hairs on my arms stand up and brought tears to my eyes.
“If ever there was such a thing as a choir of heavenly angels I had just heard it. I felt that with such beauty in the music I didn’t have room in my heart or my head for the things I had been thinking.
“I played it again and had a vision in my mind of it being heard in the peace, quiet and tranquillity of St Peter’s. I thought that if it had done so much to calm my thoughts it could do the same for others.”
People travel from afar to unwind at the St Peter’s each month, including Lisa Mainwaring, deputy programme director at Premier Christian Radio, who visited St Peter’s April music evening, which then formed the basis of her 29 May Bank Holiday show.
As one of the 100 new worshipping communities the Diocese of Guildford aims to found over the next 10 years, ‘Music to Calm the Soul’ fulfils part of the diocesan vision, Transforming Church, Transforming Lives. Jens Mankel, diocesan church planting and fresh expressions adviser, commented:
“I am excited about this fresh expression of worship as it connects the gift of the beautiful sacred space that St Peter’s Hersham offers with the need for rest, as well as a deeper encounter of the soul with God. With today’s emphasis on the rational approach to life and faith, the postmodern person will find a refreshingly holistic approach to encountering God in ‘Music to Calm the Soul’.
“I would encourage other churches to consider what they might be able to achieve through similar ventures.”
Visit St Peter’s on the last Sunday of the month at 7pm (6.40pm for refreshments) to enjoy ‘Music to Calm the Soul’, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.