Revd Hammond has led non-traditional worship sessions at King's beforeLouis Ashworth

The Revd Andrew Hammond, Chaplain of King’s College, is working with students to begin HeartsEase, a new student church running during term time.

The Chaplain is known for frequently hosting non-traditional worship sessions at King’s, such as Heartspace and Critical Mass, and cites his positive experience with these as one of the reasons that HeartsEase was founded.

Critical Mass, described as “radically alternative”, is a service where students sit on the floor of King’s Chapel, with their worship accompanied by projections, incense and ambient music. Hammond remarks, “After the last Critical Mass session at King’s, someone asked me, ‘Why isn’t there a church that does something like this?’”

During Heartspace, King’s students are welcome to wander the Chapel, lie on the floor, or use the space however they wish as part of reflection and prayer. Hammond is trying to carry a similar ‘alternative’ style over to HeartsEase to offer to students at other colleges - even describing it as “Critical Mass 2.0”. He wants people to go away thinking, “This is something new, but not alien.”

“These students told me that they had tried some other student churches, and felt there was a certain set of views and ways of thinking about things that they weren’t comfortable with, which I would say represents one way of how the Christian faith exists in the world, but I think there are other ways too.”

Explaining the name of the church, Hammond says that the ‘Hearts’ part relates to “the constant interplay between heart and mind”. HeartsEase, he says, connects the two, focusing on feelings as well as ideas and beliefs.

“Quite a lot of people who come to talk to me are looking for some kind of ‘ease’ in their situation, and there is a great deal of ‘ill ease’ in the human condition.” This is what the ‘Ease’ in the name refers to: “finding ways of bringing people away from feelings of alienation, confusion, disempowerment.”

Ideologically, HeartsEase aims to be a church which offers “humble hope” as opposed to “assertive certainty”. They try to steer quite clear of dogmatism and of the belief that there is a “straightforward set of discernable rules,” instead talking about faith in a way that allows worshippers to be more “free-thinking”. The Chaplain also describes it as “quite progressive” on many key issues, such as gender identity.

Students played an important role in inspiring Hammond through conversations, but as well as this will go on to take up a large part of the running of the new church. While there are certain things that “only a priest can do,” he encourages students to give testimonies, lead prayers and conduct readings. He also intends to continually listen to them when it comes to their vision for HeartsEase.


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Rachel Bourne, a key student involved in the founding of HeartsEase, said, “Looking at the Christian communities for students in the centre of Cambridge we felt like there was something missing – a middle ground, that welcomed people from all different Christian traditions, beliefs, levels of doubt, and backgrounds.”

“It’s a student-led church in that there is a core group of us who want to use our experiences to create a space for this.”

And to students who are unsure about whether to attend, the Chaplain gives some simple advice: “Just try it.”

The first session of HeartsEase will be this Sunday 20 October at 9pm, at Michaelhouse, Trinity Street.

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