Introducing Foyer Groups!
The French meaning of the word Foyer is hearth or hearthside and evokes an image of warmth and comfort. For untold generations it has been customary for people worldwide to welcome old friends, family members and newcomers into our homes by gathering around a fire or central location most often close to where food is being prepared, to celebrate special occasions, to enjoy times of fellowship and share moments of camaraderie. In tune with this time-honored tradition of hospitality the Anglican Community has for many years encouraged the formation of small informal Parish gatherings called Foyer Groups; small, close-knit groups of parishioners sharing a common bond of Christian love and concern for one another.
History of Foyer Groups
The idea originated at the Cathedral of St. Michael, in the Diocese of Coventry, England – born of the massive devastation inflicted at the height of the German Blitz on London and Coventry during World War II. During one of the many air raids conducted in 1940, the city's 14th century cathedral was completely destroyed as a result of the aerial bombardment. Rather than dwell on the violent loss of his beloved place of worship, the local Provost was inspired to found a ministry of reconciliation that he called the Community of the Cross and Nails. While sifting through the rubble of the cathedral, he gathered many of the old nails that had fallen among the ruins and was inspired to have them twisted together to form a cross. This cross of nails and the words "Father, Forgive" became the unifying symbol of the International Ministry of Reconciliation, a group of devout followers who believe that understanding between peoples, nations, and ideologies can come only when human beings meet and know each other as individuals. They truly live out the maxim “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
In 1967, the staff of the Coventry Cathedral began meeting together in small informal groups as a means "to bridge the divisions which subtly separate us one from another"; as a result of the meetings they noticed a powerful bond forming among the staff members who joined what they came to call the Foyer Group. Two years later, the Foyer movement spread to the congregation of Coventry Cathedral and then beyond. In time, Foyer Groups began springing up in parishes all over Britain and in America. Today, many Episcopal churches throughout the United States have foyer groups that promote fellowship amongst members and encourage the informal exchange of ideas, experiences and common problems within friendly home surroundings, in a Christian context and while breaking bread together.
So, What Exactly are Foyer Groups?
Foyer Groups are a fun and easy way for parishioners (21 years & older) to gather together on a regular but informal basis for purely social reasons – to enjoy one another’s company, to strengthen bonds of community, to meet new members and just get to know other people who share a common interest in Grace but with whom we might not otherwise interact. They provide a means to develop new friendships and deepen old ones and are a way to make our Cathedral feel smaller and warmer.
There is no agenda or plan – just casual fellowship and a refreshing meal. Groups are made up of singles, couples, young people, retired folks and people in their Golden Years, etc., in other words a cross section of the parish. Out of the meetings, friendships develop among people who might not have any other opportunity to meet and get to know each other. Newcomers are especially invited to sign up to join one of the groups.
Each small group of eight to ten people meet once each month in members’ homes during the church year, beginning with a kick-off pot luck dinner in September and continuing through May. Generally, the host/hostess provides the entire dinner; however, other variations are possible. Some groups have enjoyed gathering for a picnic lunch during good weather or even meeting at a local restaurant. Other groups have elected to study and discuss books or articles, while others gather for a purely social experience. The choice of available options is limited only by the collective imagination of the group, but the main idea is for the gatherings to simply focus on Christian fellowship, a refreshing meal and relaxed conversation.
New groups are formed in the fall, meeting each month October through May. The groups are put together randomly in order to add an element of spontaneity, such that each of us might have the opportunity to get to know others in the parish who may be outside our normal circle of acquaintance. Sound interesting to you? Please be sure to sign up as soon as possible, so we can begin forming the groups. Feel free to contact Shirley Triano at 321-276-9142 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Super Foyers Kick-off Pot Luck Dinner
At the beginning of each term, all group members will attend the pot luck dinner at the Cathedral, usually in the Great Hall. Prior to the dinner, conveners will have received their list of members in the group and will call each member to welcome them to the group and to help them decide what food they will contribute for the pot luck. This is the only time a group member will bring a covered dish to a gathering for Foyers.
At the Kick-off Pot Luck, group members meet their convener and all of the others in their group. After dinner and the brief presentation by the Foyer Coordinator, time will be allotted from groups to choose their individual dates for future dinners. Everyone will be reminded to bring their calendars along to the Pot Luck Dinner. This is a fun and festive occasion – you will not want to miss out!
What does a Foyer Convener Do?
The convener acts as the leader for the Foyer group of eight and hosts the first dinner. The convener initially contacts the members of the group to verify their contact information and remind them of the date and time for the Super Foyers Kick-off Pot Luck Dinner. During the kick-off dinner, conveners will facilitate scheduling the monthly dinners among the group and discussing the ground rules—very simple. Throughout the months, the convener will keep in contact with the host/hostess for each month as the date approaches to make sure all is well. The convener will act as communicator between members of the group and the Foyer Coordinator should problems arise. And as well, inform the Coordinator of any contact information changes of the group members.
Hosting a Foyer Group
As a participant of Foyers, you will have a chance to host the other members of your group in your home. If you are not able to host at least eight people in your home, you may co-host with another member or choose a suitable venue, such as a public park for your meal. Foyer dinners should always be simple, inexpensive and above all, fun!
Duration of the Foyer Gathering
Three hours seems to be an optimum length of time for a Foyer dinner gathering. It is far better to wind up the evening while everyone is still having a great time, than to find that you wish everyone would leave as soon as possible—not what we hope to have happen during your time of hosting.
It is important that Foyer dinners be kept simple and inexpensive. Wine and beer may be offered, but refrain from serving strong alcoholic drinks. Also, always have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available.
What to do when you are the Host/Hostess
Contact your group members a few weeks ahead of your turn so everyone has the date in their calendar and on their radar. As it gets closer to the appointed time, make follow-up calls or emails to confirm attendance. Make sure everyone has driving instructions to your home, or if need be, a ride with someone. Before serving the meal, distribute the prayer cards to everyone and lead in the Litany of Reconciliation and blessing. Be sure to pass the prayer cards to the person/persons hosting the next month’s dinner.
What does the Foyer Participant Do?
Come to the dinner with an open heart and an eagerness to get to know the other members of our parish family in a relaxed social environment. The beauty of the Foyer program lies in the diversity of the groups and in the joy of discovering new friends, many of whom may sit next to you during services and special events at the Cathedral. This may be an opportunity to network for sports partners (tennis, golf, etc.), childcare sharing, searches, resources for employment, finding doctors, etc., going to civic events or just having good old-fashioned fun with new acquaintances.
If possible, participants should strive to attend each monthly dinner. Agree to take your turn at hosting one of the dinners. Respond to your host’s invitation promptly so plans for the meal and other arrangements can be made in a timely and respectful manner—RSVPs are so rare these days, but please do make your best effort to do so. If there is a time when you have one or two houseguests and you would like to include them (rather than be absent from the dinner), you MUST HAVE PERMISSION FROM THE HOST/HOSTESS to include them (remember, no children). This should be done only in rare occurrences.
Encourage other Cathedral members to sign up for the next Foyers program.