Coffee, Chat and Christ in the Heart of London
In January 2011, a grant from Home Mission was awarded to support Baptist Minister Paul Unsworth as he embarked on an imaginative and creative church planting initiative. The intention was to plant a congregation among the young adults who frequent the Brick Lane area in Spitalfields by establishing a commercial coffee shop which would become the focus for Christian witness and the venue for a worshipping congregation.
The coffee shop (Kahaila) opened its doors to the public on 15 June 2012 and things have gone so well that the Trustees of the project agreed they would not need any Home Mission Support after the end of 2012. Paul Unsworth tells us what has been happening since the Kahaila opened:
The week leading up to our opening was like living an episode of changing rooms, even on our opening night we still had unpainted walls. Thankfully the style of the café is ‘rustic chic’ so people thought it was deliberate. It is now just over four months ago since we opened and I am truly amazed, when God says he is able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine, he meant it.
As a business we are generating four times as much business than we anticipated. Local people have been so encouraging commenting on how they love Kahaila for its coffee, food, customer service and general atmosphere. One person posted in an online magazine about Kahaila saying, “…a recently opened coffee shop which simply gets everything right.”
One of our aims from the beginning was to become one of the best coffee shops in London. I am not saying we have achieved that as yet but we are making good progress. As a mission I am in awe of all that God has been doing over the last four months. Here is a story from our opening night.
“I felt all tingly during one of them songs” said John, after wandering into the opening celebration at Kahaila. John had never really had much to do with church, and certainly wouldn’t have called himself a Christian. But he seemed open to my suggestion that the tingly feeling he’d experienced during worship was the power of the Holy Spirit at work in him. Four months later, I am meeting weekly with John to do a Bible study with him, and he is really hungry to know Jesus better. “I want what you have”, he often says to me.
This is one of many encounters, I feel like I have more significant conversation with people in one week than I had in one year working in a church building. What encourages me is that these conversations just happen by being available in the café. Only last week I had one young lady start asking me questions about Kahaila. It turned out that she had been a Mormon for 22 years and during our conversation I was able to share the significance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The following day a Muslim man from the neighboring shop came in and asked us to pray for him. So in the middle of the café we prayed God’s blessing on him in the name of Jesus.
In order to create more positive encounters with local people we run a diverse programme of activities during the week in the cafe, such as Origami workshop, customize your old clothes workshop and other craft activities. We also have live music and poetry events. All activities are designed to create positive interactions between our faith community and the wider community. Perhaps my favourite event is our ‘bring and share’ supper club every Sunday, when we invite regular customers to come and have a meal together. This is growing in popularity and is enabling us to build deeper relationships with people in the local community.
The church – We have a church service every Wednesday night, we are slightly different in our style of service in that we experiment with styles of worship and we allow time for discussion after the sermon. I am pleased to announce that the church is growing and we now have around 25 regular attenders. I am even more encouraged to share that some of those that come regularly have either never gone to church before or have not been to church for a long time.