Stoke Newington Café Church

Thursday, 12 March, 2015

Ruth Gray tells the story of The Salvation Army Stoke Newington Café Church, which combines life-changing ministry with good business practice.

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Transcript

Captain Ruth Gray: God gave us a vision that The Salvation Army should re-establish itself in the area of Stoke Newington just across the road from Abney Park Cemetery where William Booth is buried and he said we should do this by opening a coffee shop and from that he would grow a worshipping community.

And we've been open a year now and already we have a core group of people who worship regularly here once a month on a Sunday or who also attend prayer meetings and Bible studies. God is completely God and what we have seen happen here which we did not expect is, within the last year, is that we've also enrolled soldiers, we've recognised adherents but, more than that, we have seen God transform lives because this is now a place that's open five days a week. We are here to engage with the community in a culturally relevant way to this area. We wouldn't label ourselves anything particularly other than a relevant local church, a local congregation of believers who meet together to worship God.

Helen Pegram: We started the café churches originally just for special Christian events, we did Pentecost and Easter and over the summer but they've really grown over the last few months and people have been really asking about it. And so we decided to go monthly with our café churches. They're really important because we've had people who just come into the shop as customers who wouldn't normally go into a church and they've decided to come to our café church where they kind of walk into the same environment where it's the same people, the same feeling that they all have in the week but there's a bit of a Christian twist on the time that they spend in here with us.

Captain Ruth Gray: As a church community, as a community of believers, we meet on a Sunday afternoon once a month in the coffee area of Stoke Newington Salvation Army. We are what would be called a fresh expression of the Salvation Army, a fresh expression of church, but the reason it's working so well is that we are engaging with local people who want church to be really relevant to them. Within that gathering, we read God's Word, we pray together, we listen to music, we have soloists who sing, we have members of the community who sing as part of that gathering, we share testimony. And at this next Sunday meeting, Jackie - who's one of our newest soldiers of Stoke Newington - will share her testimony with the group that are gathered.

Jackie: For some time we were just coming to the café and the charity shop and then we came one Sunday for their church service and really enjoyed it, and decided we would come back again. And then, came one Sunday and somebody was being enrolled as an adherent and I jokingly said, 'We're next!'

I actually think it's very important to have somewhere like this because there's a lot of people who will not be going anywhere and the fact that they can come in here; not just for the coffee, not just for the charity shop, but to actually sit down with somebody and have a really good chat – they can talk about their problems, they can even talk about finding God again without feeling that they are being shoved into the Christian way of life.

Captain Ruth Gray: When we originally wrote the plans and had the goals for this community, this church, this Salvation Army; this was to be our fourth year objective – that we would be meeting monthly. The reality is it's happened in under 12 months because it's God who builds his church, it's really not us. And the obedience thing that we just open the doors and we are ourselves, people who love Jesus is just why he's - I believe – honouring that and building his church. And so we are seeing people's lives saved, people's lives transformed on a regular basis; we expect him to do that. What we expect is to work hard, to turn up and to be ourselves in this place.

Throughout this process which has been going on now for five years although we've only had this building for a year, we've had amazing support both from our DHQ [Divisional HQ] at London Central and from THQ [Territorial HQ], especially the Mission Development Unit – which obviously oversees the fresh expressions side of The Salvation Army. However, what we are also very keen to do is we are Salvation Army so our DNA, our ethos, everything that we believe in is part of The Salvation Army. We are being The Salvation Army in a really relevant way in 2015.

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