Café Culture Part 2: 3Cs@WBC, Witnesham Baptist Church
Witnesham Baptist Church is a Rural Ministries partner located in a small linear village to the north of Ipswich. The community, while still having a pub, lacks a gathering point. When the post office closed, it left the village devoid of any community enterprises apart from its two churches. The parish church is located up a singletrack side road, so a little isolated, whilst the baptist church is on the main (and only) through road. Rather than lamenting the post office’s closure, the baptist church decided to offer its building to host an outreach post office from Ipswich for two half days per week.
For a while, the church provided tea and biscuits to the users of the post office in the adjoining hall, but over time fewer people wanted to come through. So the church took a bold decision and closed what was advertised as a free café. Then, in October 2018, the church relaunched two activities: a monthly craft meeting called ‘Tuesday Craft Corner’ and a weekly café called ‘3C@WBC’. The 3C stand for coffee, cake and conversation. The location for this was moved from the back hall into the lighter, airier main ‘sanctuary.’ Comfortable chairs were arranged and table cloths put on each table to create a more hospitable space.
A handful of people attend the Craft Corner, but the new café attracts up to 15 people – a mixture of those from the church, those using the post office and those just passing. The church provides proper filter coffee, a selection of teas, savoury scones, homemade bread and cake, all for a small donation.
It was previously thought that offering free tea and coffee was helpful, but we believe that it actually put people off coming in. The new donationbased system seems to be far more popular. Those who attend 3C @ WBC enjoy playing a variety of board games as well as engaging in general conversations. Andrew Croft, the minister of Witnesham Baptist, observes, “As we meet and chat with folk, we are building up relationships with them, letting them know we are interested in and care about them. We believe it is important to be visually at the centre of the community and have sought a number of folk to invite into the building. We recently removed four large elm trees that were obscuring the chapel, so that we are now visible from the road, as well as letting in more light to the building.
“The café and craft club are part of our programme of community activities that includes a weekly Mums & Toddlers group, which uses the whole building. We believe the church is an important place for worship of our Lord, but also a space to offer welcome and support. We seek to share the love of God in practical action as we build relationships.”