Local churches offer a Devon Cream Tea Exeter welcome to Hongkongers
Scones bought. Jam and cream ready. Helpers gathered. Short Q&A presentation prepared.
This was our mental checklist as we arrived at church last Sunday, ready to provide a cream tea Exeter welcome for Hongkongers new to our city.
It’s always a little nerve-wracking organising these things. It does take thought, prayer and planning.
However, we enjoyed a friendly, joyful English cultural afternoon with our new international friends. It was great to be able to build on relationships and forge links between Exeter churches and the wider community. This event builds on from our initial garden welcome back in late summer and we are so thankful that all went well and for the encouragement of our own church family. Reflecting on our Sunday together, I feel there were three things that helped make the event a warm and welcoming occasion.
Three tips for putting on international events
Tip 1: Teamwork
Kind church members came, talked, helped in the kitchen, served teas and cleared up. Don’t try to do everything yourself. That way lies burnout, even for the most prayerful and servant-hearted. Plus, it was wonderful to share the excitement with other Christians.
Do be clear on what’s expected of helpers. We specifically asked ours to sit with Hongkongers at tables and engage, and to help out where they could. Afterwards, ensure you thank your volunteers and ask if they’d like to be involved in any future events.
Tip 2: Timing
In our case, we did not want our event to clash with the local Exeter Chinese church service time. We also selected a time and day we knew may church people would be around to help. As a result, we settled on 5pm on a Sunday.
Holding an event that finished just before the start of our church service also meant we could naturally invite people to stay on if they wished.
Tip 3: Have a focus
It helps to have a theme to build an event around and it also creates a bit of anticipation. In our case, as guests arrived and settled, we left some questions on each table around cakes and baking to get the conversation going. With cream teas as the draw, we held a short Q&A presentation. This introduced the event and a lovely older church member was able to lead. We quizzed her on scone-making and the important “cream or jam first” question. (It’s cream first, by the way, at least here in Devon!) There were many ‘oohs’ of delight as she held up her 100-year-old cream separator to show to everyone.
So, it really helps to ensure your event has a clear focus.
Prayer and purpose
Of course, prayer underlies all we do. Our ongoing prayer is that deepening friendships will develop, that Jesus will be glorified in all our interactions and that in time, many more will be welcomed into the kingdom.
What are your ideas for holding an event to welcome internationals? Share your ideas below.