Book Store and Café
Prepared by Rev’d Marty Levesque
In community building theory, a Third Place is defined as a place separate from the home or the workplace which serves as an anchor of community life. A third place can take many forms from a gym to a hair salon to a bar. No matter what the venue, they act social equalizers, political enablers and community builders.
In third places, people come and go as they please. There is no formal agenda, there is social equality among patrons, and discussion is natural and free-flowing. They are where people go to relax, socialize and connect with their friends and communities.
Ray Oldenburg describes the role of the third place as the third pillar in a tripod. Home and work make up two pillars, but without the third pillar, the tripod is unstable. This metaphor should resonate with our Anglican tripod of scripture, reason and tradition.
For centuries, the church acted as a third place in the community. It was a place where all were welcomed, where community was formed, and where current issues were discussed and debated. The church provided a necessary space for healthy neighborhoods and in so doing reduced individualism and encouraged community engagement.
The role of the church as a third place has fallen away as our buildings have become increasingly single-use. Many churches are only open for worship hours and special events leaving the buildings unused for much of the week. This is not only a poor use of our abundance but a model that has not kept pace with the changing needs of society.
It is not church that has become irrelevant to the younger generation, it is the delivery model. A church building no longer fits the model of a third place as recognized by this generation. Growing attendance at pub theology nights and discipleship meetings occurring in coffee shops attest to the shifting trend.
This proposal aims to re-capture the church as a third place in the Diocese of Huron. A coffee shop and bookstore space is a familiar third-place model for the younger generation and has the potential to keep them connected with Christianity in a social context so successful generations ago.
This place would serve as a centre for outreach to various communities in London, connecting them to the Cathedral community and creating a neutral and welcoming point of entry for those new to the faith or those returning to it. This space would also have the potential to facilitate partnerships between the church and society, the city, local businesses and artist communities.
This re-envisioned church would serve as a new model for the Anglican Church for worship as expressed in the Diocese of Huron’s goal to explore Fresh Expressions of ministry and modes of church planting. Principal celebrations could be held Sunday Evenings in the coffee shop space for a demographic seeking a new model of church in a familiar space.
Financially, a number of potential revenue streams can work together to make the venue sustainable. These include book and gifts sales, textbook partnerships with local theological schools, cafe services, church supplies and offerings from the fresh expression congregations that the venue will serve. By diversifying income streams and building on existing relationships with local colleges, churches and organizations, this new ministry could be self-supporting, generate revenue for the Cathedral and open new possibilities for inreach and outreach in the downtown core.
As a multi-use space, the venue would require a large open area which would act as a main gathering place. Modeled as a coffee-shop/bookstore this would be a warm and welcoming place that invites people to gather and stay.
The space would be flexible to accommodate a variety of uses from worship services to artist performances to a traditional coffee shop. A bar for fair-trade coffee, refreshments and snacks and free-wifi would encourage people to stay, connect and build community organically.
The location would be chosen to connect with a young, urban demographic and to facilitate community participation. Near the Cathedral or on Cathedral property would be one possible choice as it would be close to foot-traffic from Richmond Row and would be close enough to downtown to connect with local events such as the Fringe Festival and Nuit Blanche.
There are many opportunities for inventory in a space like this including:
• Christian books from fiction to bible study aids to children’s texts
• Textbooks ordered for local seminaries and theological schools
• Greeting cards and mementos for special occasions and sacraments
• Music, clothing and gifts from a Christian perspective
• Fair trade goods or gifts in support of local charities or churches
• Artwork and music from local artists
• Church supplies for local churches and clergy
Responding to changing needs and demographics
As a flexible, multi-use facility, this space will have the ability to adjust to the changing needs and demands of the community faster than a traditional church model.
In such a space, opportunity exists to experiment with different forms of fresh expressions services and to listen and respond to the needs of the community we seek to serve. A space that is comfortable and familiar to patrons opens the door to developing relationships in a new way and allows us to fulfill the Great Commission in an ever-changing context.
Post-modernity has presented many challenges for the church, the least of which is a fractured culture that has led to an increased sense of individualism. This can be seen in the diocese with the increasing problem of a congregationalist mindset among many parishes.
The cafe and bookstore has the potential to centralize church supplies and theological resources for the diocese and connecting the churches within London and the greater London area.
Since the cafe will have 4 income streams – unlike previous failed christian stores – prices can be competitive to encourage parishes to use this new Diocesan resource. Not only can this alleviate financial pressure on individual parishes, but it has the potential to foster a diocesan connection of pooling our resources to offer ministry and to help the diocesan whole.
Targeted and effective marketing of the business portion of this venture will be critical to its success and must be carefully considered and targeted.
Research into effective media and messaging will be considered to promote the venue among the target audience in the London area.
The diocese will also be critical in rallying support from the churches and local church communities, especially in the embryonic stages of the venture.
With carefully considered income streams and location of this new venue, a number of partnership opportunities are possible to foster community involvement and economic success. These include:
• Theological schools
• The City of London
• Arts organizations
• Community/Citizenship organizations
• Local churches
• Local festivals and events
There are many possibilities for the church’s involvement in the life of the citizens of London. There is great potential for outreach to demographics that have been untapped or alienated from the church for too long.
Reducing the barriers of entry and re-envisioning the church as a third place in the community opens the doors to new opportunities for evangelism, mission and service. We can reach new people and serve as Christ taught us.
With a diversified revenue stream, we gain the flexibility to adapt to community and diocesan needs.
To pursue this project, a team would need to be compiled and a thorough business plan must be prepared. Funding would need to be secured through grants or loans.
This proposal is not a finished product, but a vision meant to create interest in a new mode of ministry to explore for the city of London. This vision sees the creation of a self-sustaining revenue-stream for the Cathedral, the evolution of urban ministry in downtown London, a fresh expression of theology in a modern context and the re-establishment of the church as a third place in the Diocese of Huron.