A playgroup for babies and toddlers has just commenced its fifth term. It started last spring and takes place on Tuesday mornings at the Church of St Anta and All Saints in Carbis Bay.

The priest-in-charge of the Benefice of Carbis Bay and Lelant, the Reverend Etienne van Blerk, and a coordinating team of about nine members, worked closely with the local school in setting up the group.

“St Uny CofE Academy had just started a nursery that goes from three years up,” he explains. “The headteacher and us coordinated so that the two groups complement each other.”

St Anta Church also runs a monthly café church which has been proving popular with young people, children and families. And, following the success of the infant and toddler group in Carbis Bay, Etienne and the team are keen to establish something similar at St Uny Church in Lelant.

“Lelant needs a play group,” he says. “We’d like to start one there in this coming year.”

Little Lights now attracts about 20 children – and their parents or carers – each week to a church which has been made extraordinarily child-friendly and which includes a permanent play area that’s also used during Sunday services.

Jo and Clara

Jo, Clara, Lauren and Nicci are among the group of parents who say they’ve really come to appreciate their Tuesday mornings at the church – the company, the support, the range of activities for the little ones, the stories, songs and dances, the tea, coffee and cake.

“I love it,” says Jo. ”It’s so nice and relaxed. The children all play together. It’s great to have the support of the people from the church. It’s a caring environment and quite calming. It’s the highlight of my week!”

“It’s my daughter’s favourite day of the week,” adds Clara. “It’s so welcoming and calm. You feel part of something every week. We love it here.”

Lauren has been bringing her children here for more than a year.

“I love it because of the amount of support you get from the other adults,” she says. “As a mum of two young ones, I feel it’s incredibly supportive. It’s really nice and relaxing.”

Her friend Nicci agrees. “I always feel very welcome here,” she says. “It gives us a chance to get together. It’s nice to come and have a catch-up with everybody – and to see all the volunteers because they’re so welcoming as well.”

She says she values her local church becoming so involved in its wider community in this way.

“It’s nice to see how the church is so inclusive of children and families,” she says. “I grew up just across the way. It’s a very different environment from how it was when I was growing up. When I told my mum there was a baby and toddler group happening here, she said she couldn’t imagine it happening back in her day.”

Caleb, Nicci, Lauren and Olive

Mike Laramy is one of the team members who’ve helped to organise the group since it was established last year.

“It’s a lovely group,” he says. “I look forward to my Tuesdays. It’s so uplifting. We’re blessed because quite a few of us have teaching backgrounds, myself included. We’ve had no problem getting volunteers. Everyone says they look forward to it!”

Mike has been involved with St Anta Church for the last five years.

“This is what I think we should be doing,” he says. “This is about reaching out to people, to share the message of God’s love. Nobody says it’s too churchy. It’s about getting that balance right.”

Mike and Etienne join the dance