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Reform Magazine | May 19, 2024

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Out with the organ, in with the coffee machine - Reform Magazine

Out with the organ, in with the coffee machine

The story of a church finding a new way to serve its community – and the sacrifice it entailed

Southcote, a housing estate in Reading, Berkshire, used to have a cafe, a pub and a library, but the cafe and pub closed down and the library was under threat too. For a church wanting to connect with and to serve its community, the question was clear: in an estate deprived of amenities, what can we offer? The answer was a cafe.

Would people come? Grange United Reformed Church had previously invited parents of the preschool that used its hall to coffee mornings, but with no success. However, a church on a nearby estate ran a successful after-school cafe attracting parents and children on the way home from school. Grange URC was in a similar situation, with two schools nearby, the pre-school on its premises and a doctor’s surgery across the road.

Grange is a small church with limited resources and few members under 70. One asset it had was a modern sanctuary that was not much used during the week. When the pub closed, a covenant on the land meant that the council had to use some of the funds released to benefit the community. A community meeting was held to consider how to spend these funds and the idea of a cafe proved popular, but the council could not staff it or provide premises.

The church discussed and prayed. Despite some trepidation, they decided they wanted to make the cafe happen, but could not do it on their own. The three churches and two faith charities on the estate regularly work together well as ‘Southcote Alive’, so they agreed to work on this together. This also gave them a name for the project: Cafe Alive. …


This is an extract from the May 2017 edition of Reform

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