Café Culture Part 3: Soul Cafe, Dibden Purlieu, Hampshire
Rural Ministries’ Partner, Soul Café, is a creative art/café/church space that has been established in an old Methodist church in a village on the edge of the New Forest. Peter Slade, who leads the project alongside his wife and a small team, notes, “We are so fortunate to be blessed with a truly inspiring building with its obvious Christian heritage. We have sought to redevelop and tastefully re-imagine what a ‘spiritual space’ might look like that embraces the arts. Over the past five and a bit years we have been here, visitors have found the space to be both welcoming and stimulating.”
A community has been formed around the café, where a mixture of local people and those on the fringe of church are able to enjoy company with regular church goers. Soul Café offers a programme of art workshops, exhibitions and spiritual art installations that have worked together to help establish the café as a place of creativity and thought-provoking inspiration. Peter continues, “Our commitment to high quality coffee, cakes and relaxed, contemporary surroundings has enabled the project to thrive. On a Saturday, the café acts as a real hub from which we build community and use to signpost people to our various other activities. We also see part of our role as being an influencer within the Christian community, enabling groups to see what can be possible by looking creatively at existing church buildings in order to be more effective in their neighbourhoods.”
Soul Café has staged a number of creative art installations to help communicate the Christian faith, including a large crown of thorns made from ‘icicle’ Christmas lights. Peter adds, “We have recently launched a new monthly initiative called ‘Breathing Space’ as an opportunity for people to gather to quietly pray, reflect and engage with the space as part of their spiritual journey. This Sunday evening event utilises video, ambient music and art, and has been well received by the community who see Soul Café as their spiritual home.
“Soul Café remains an experimental concept, but we hope through our journey others may be inspired to use some of the principles we have discovered in their own locality, and enable those of nominal or no faith to encounter Christ in all His fullness.”