George’s: the church café making a big impact in Holborn
St George’s Holborn have recently embarked on a creative and innovative venture in opening their own in-house café: George’s.
As a church, St George’s aim is to “see the transformation of individuals, communities and structures’ in the locality of Holborn. And what better way to engage with the community and its individuals than by inviting them into the church to eat and drink together.
Andrew Chrystal, Operations Director at St George’s, had the inspiration for this community café. Having previously worked for Costa Coffee in an operations role, Andrew had a clear vision for the café:
“You’ve got to have a strong vision for a café like this, it’s not worth just opening it because you can or because the space is there. You need to know why you’re doing it.”
Behind this vision was a real desire to open the doors of the church to its surrounding community. Since the café has been open, St George’s have been able to increase their mid-week church activities. The Mother and Toddler Group makes use of the café lounge, and there is now a Wednesday lunch time worship service, and morning prayer two days a week, both of which make use of the church space and are open and visible to café visitors.
A testimony to the community building going on at St George’s is the story of a lady who started visiting the café, who now attends the toddler’s group with her children. It seems that George’s is definitely drawing the community of Holborn together. They source almost all their stock locally, in partnership with a neighbouring café in Holborn.
Since the opening of the café, the number of visitors has steadily increased. Conveniently situated on the path from Holborn station to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and near to the British Museum, hundreds of people including many tourists walk past George’s each day. Andrew noted:
“We get about 120 visitors to the café a day, and the church itself has gained about 30 visitors a day since the launch.”
George’s is also there to help those in need. Before the launch of the café, much time was taken to consider the help that the open church could offer to those who are hungry, homeless or lonely. The church have put together a leaflet for anyone in need detailing local services such as the food bank, shelters and hospitals nearby. The staff in the café are also forming relationships with those who come in from day to day.
One passer-by came to the door to say:
“I’ve been walking past this building for 14 years, and I didn’t even know it was a church!”
Opening up the café has in turn opened up the church to the local community in a new way.
George’s is open Monday to Saturday, 7am to 7pm, catering to the busy lifestyle of commuting, working Londoners, and to the community of those living and working in Holborn during the day. The café was officially opened on 8 February by the Bishop of Edmonton, and boasts a great work space, alongside plenty of room to chat and build community. There has been a multitude of great reviews on Twitter and Instagram, and they recently hosted a book launch for Chef Will Torrent’s book Afternoon tea at home.
As the word spreads, it seems that George’s is becoming a buzzing community venue – an excellent example of the Church engaging with our Capital Vision to be more compassionate by ‘opening up our church buildings to the wider community.’ To find out more about the work of St George’s in the Holborn area visit their website. Or why not pop in to George’s for a coffee and to say hello?
This was written by Gemma Scharnowski, a former Capital Vision 2020 Assistant at the Diocese of London. [edited on 14 May 2019]