Sunday 5 November 2006

Cafe 101

I heard about a new cafe that has opened in London, just around the corner from St Paul's Cathedral. I decided to pay a visit.

As I walked down the stairs to the basement location I immediately noticed how light, bright and large the cafe was. Lots of big windows for people to see out and in, bright furniture and the sound of people enjoying being together. It didn't have the atmosphere of most coffeehouses I visit - lower lighting, jazz/chill music, slightly moody. This was different and I think that was intentional.

I purchased a regular latte (all teas, coffees and some snacks were Fairtrade) and took a seat in a swivel chair in the corner giving me a vantage point to take it all in and do some people watching. Around me, scattered on tables and display stands, were leaflets, brochures and books. I flicked through a few and it wasn't long before I recognised a few faces in the photos. In fact, as I looked around the cafe there were a few people that I had seen before even though I had never been to this cafe until now. That's because this was the new cafe at 101 Queen Victoria Street, the international headquarters of The Salvation Army - the Christian movement in which I minister.

I think the cafe is a great idea and is open to staff and any members of the public. Along with the drinks, snacks and light meals, Cafe 101 serves up information about Salvation Army ministry around the world through excellent displays, internet points and literature. I was particularly taken with one booklet which described in a concise manner who The Salvation Army is, what it does and why. Here's a couple of extracts:

On Believing...

"Belief in God is the source of the love that motivates our worldwide ministry. It is also the source of our strength. We are an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Our message is based on the Bible. Our belief in God, given expression through worship and prayer, leads to our belief in human worth and human potential.

This motivates our actions, which aim to change individuals, and ultimately the world, for good."

Along with over 15,000 worshipping churches around the world, with a membership of more than a million, The Salvation Army is also involved in mission at the 'front line'...

"Worldwide, our diverse expression of God's love shows itself in help for millions of people every year, through 539 hostels for the homeless, 211 emergency lodges, 202 children's homes, 212 homes for the elderly, 39 homes for the disabled, and a further 725 residential homes for various purposes; 25 general hospitals, a further 12 specialist hospitals, and 346 mobile medical clinics. We operate 1,877 schools, attended by more than half-a-million pupils and staffed by 15,000 teachers; 107 vocational training centres and 72 colleges and universities. We run 1,480 day care centres answering all manner of needs, and 220 addiction dependency programmes. We operate hundreds of disaster rehabilitation schemes, visit over a quarter-of-a-million prisoners every year and trace more than 8,000 missing people annually. We estimate the total number of people we help every year is more than 18 million."

Wow. 18 million! That's Australia.

Sometimes when you're focused on doing your own thing at a very local level you forget about a bigger picture. This was one latte that helped me put in perspective what I/we do. I have to say, I came away from Cafe 101 feeling good about being a Salvationist.

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