Soul Cafe - Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire

Hampshire based Peter and Helena Slade have been working to establish a fresh expression of church called Journey Church over the last few years with the vision to reach out to both the unchurched and de-churched folk of the area through café culture and an emphasis on the arts as Peter is also a profession painter. 2014 was a big year for them. Watch our interview below. Alternatively watch the full interview.

We began as a small group meeting in each other's homes as we sought to refine the vision and prayed for a suitable premises to meet and develop the art café church concept that we believed was right for Journey Church.

Through good connections with other churches in the area we heard that a Methodist church in a neighbouring village had an underused building and they were prayerfully looking for fresh ideas for it to be used more effectively for outreach. So with much grace and generosity from Waterside Methodist Church and additional support from Rural Ministries, Soul Cafe was born!

We are based in a place called Dibden Purlieu on the edge of the New Forest in a group of villages known as "The waterside" as they are alongside the shore of Southampton Water. As a fairly prosperous part of the country made up of a mixture of working families and people retiring to the area it may not struggle so much with many of the issues facing inner city communities but still has folk in need of support with issues of isolation and lack of friendship and community cohesion.

Work on Soul Cafe started in early 2014 and after a lot of hard work we launched that summer. It combines the best of the old with the new we have transformed a rather dated church building into a very contemporary coffee house type space with leather sofas, tables and chairs, and re-commissioned pews! Skilful lighting also makes the café very inviting. We serve top quality espresso based coffee as well!

We opened with an exhibition of paintings and photography under the theme of "Journey". Then in November we held a portrait exhibition entitled "Strangers and other friends". Both exhibitions aimed to promote the idea that we are all on a journey; none of us has arrived! And all are welcome!!

We want the café to be a welcoming and inspiring space in which to build friendships, enjoy art exhibitions and workshops and connect with those either on the fringe of conventional church or entirely unchurched. So far we seem to be achieving this.

We have also run a six-session art workshop called "Drawing on the artist within" to encourage the development of people's creativity through drawing.

On Sunday evenings we are pioneering Journey Church gatherings at Soul Cafe. These are video and discussion based events exploring Christian spirituality in a very laid-back way whilst enjoying the comfortable surroundings of Soul Cafe and of course the best coffee around!

Our aim through these different initiatives and indeed the Soul Cafe space itself is to change perceptions about Christianity and what church is all about whilst hopefully changing lives and cultivating a sense of community and blessing along the way.