It promises to be an exciting weekend for many of those left out in the cold by Biblica at Christmas time as Nationwide Christian Trust‘s rollout of Living Oasis stores continues around the country. Here we see the new sign up at Sutton, juxtaposed with a ‘Shop To Let’ sign, Biblica’s inglorious legacy to the UK had Living Oasis not stepped in to rescue so many of the abandoned Wesley Owen bookshops and their staff.
In places, as Ray George made clear in his recent interview with Clem Jackson, those ‘To Let’ notices are likely to remain or reappear as the new organisation seeks out better premises more suited to the new vision:
We are looking to lead with the coffee shop and not the Christian bookshop and we believe that we will add a further 60% to the turnover; this is the difference between profit and loss.
The bookshops we have acquired are too small, so in most cases we are looking to relocate. We have taken temporary leases on the current bookshop sites for either three or six months, but we’re negotiating hard. We are in a buyer’s market looking to open new shops – and that’s going to happen.
The footprint of our shops will probably be three times the size of the average Wesley Owen shop we have. We want the coffee shop to be prominent but we don’t want it to seem as though the coffee shop is all we’ve got. Off from the coffee shop there will be a separate lounge and we’re going to have child-friendly zones too.
Here, then, are this Saturday’s official Living Oasis openings, A-Z by location:
- Chester: with Lady Grace Sheppard.
- Harrow: 2pm, with Fiona Castle
- Inverness: 1pm, with the Revd Professor Andrew McGowan. Refreshments will be provided. Attending? RSVP on facebook!
- Leeds: 1pm, with Paul Blakey MBE, founder of Street Angels Halifax, followed by live music at 3pm with “Voices of Praise” Gospel Choir from the New Testament Church of God.
- Liverpool: 1pm
- Sutton: 11.30am, with MOBO award winning artist Victizzle (best Gospel artist 2009) and prayers from local church leaders. Discounts, special offers, refreshments, balloons. Attending? RSVP on facebook!
- Watford: with the Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill: Reported in the Watford Observer, 14/03/2010: Residents attend Christian bookshop opening
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is entirely convinced by the Christian coffee shop idea: Johnny Laird — looking forward to Croydon’s anticipated re-opening — asks, pointedly:
Do we need to create our own Christian coffee shops, or should we be drinking our Java for Jesus in those places – those “third places” that already exist?
In the midst of all the excitement — almost palpable on facebook — it’s an uncomfortable question, but it surely needs to be asked: what do you think?