Caféchurch gets fresh boost

21 May 2008

by Pat Ashworth

TWO high-street coffee-shop chains, Costa Coffee and Gloria Jean’s Coffees, have given churches in the Caféchurch Network the go-ahead to use their shop premises for regular meetings.

Caféchurch is proving to be a popular means of drawing in people who might not be attracted to a service or event in a conventional church setting. The Network describes it as “church, but not as you know it. . . coffee with a conscience . . . the fresh expression of community on the high street. It brings communities into the relaxed café atmosphere to deal with issues from a faith perspective.”

Six churches are already operating in Costa Coffee or Gloria Jean’s premises, and the national agreement will allow many others to set up in their area. The Revd Cid Latty, from Christchurch Baptist Church in Welwyn Garden City, began the movement two years ago, and is delighted with its expansion.

Caféchurch takes place on weekday or Sunday evenings, and is operated by the coffee-shop staff. It uses a simple arrangement that does not involve money changing hands. The church pays by loyalty card. The scheme guarantees a certain amount of sales, depending on the capacity of the store, which in the case of a 70-seater, for example, would be about £250.

“It means everyone needs to buy a coffee. If they don’t make the sales, then the church pays the credit. It’s very simple,” said Mr Latty on Tuesday, describing the national roll-out of the scheme as “very, very exciting. The coffee-shop context is one that Christians love and people who don’t go to church love. There’s a lot of talk about how few men go to church, for instance — well, when you do a Caféchurch, men turn up as well. It’s just all-round good,” he said.

Churches must first do a training day; they will then be linked to a branch of the coffee-shop chain. Both Costa Coffee — whose own Costa Foundation works in education and nutrition in Colombia, Ethiopia, and Uganda — and Gloria Jean’s have expressed their satisfaction at the agreement, welcoming the relationship with churches as a way for the stores to engage with their communities.

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