INTRIGUING POSSIBILITIES for the remaining Living Oasis stores are opening up as Ray George has advised workers at the Leeds store of his intention “to withdraw from Christian retail”. Writing to prospective supporters via Network Leeds, Karen Spence, store manager, explains:
At 9.30 on Friday 15th July Ray George, Chairman of the Nationwide Christian Trust called us to say that, with regret, he would be unable to take the vision for Leeds forward. He has taken a hard decision to withdraw from Christian retail and only Harrogate and South Woodford are still trading. These shops are also seeking future funding. We express our gratitude that Ray took on 19 former Wesley Owen shops following the demise of STL. He would still like to see the full Living Oasis vision of coffee shop, books and meeting rooms come to fruition in Leeds and Liverpool. The latter has managed to secure local funding which means it can move forward at new premises on Lord Street. Our priority in Leeds is to keep 77 Albion Street and see if there is any way we can take over the lease.
The official Living Oasis Locations page (screenshot below) now shows only three stores in the group — Harrogate, South Woodford and Watford — but the site continues to offer no news or information about proposals for further closures or developments. Watford’s future, however, appears to be fairly secure in the store’s effective partnership with Presence and with the support of Christian Gateway Watford: updates are being posted both in their news section and via their facebook group.
Living Oasis South Woodford ceases trading at close of business on Saturday 30th July. Negotiations and prayers continue with another party interested in taking us over, so do pray that the necessary finance is forthcoming. Thanks to all our customers, to those who have asked for ministry, and to those who have ministered us, especially the deep theological discussions!! It has been a privelege [sic] to serve you all.
Living Oasis Liverpool remain optimistic and Anna Bunn, the store manager, assures me that they are “doing everything that we can to get the store up and running … it’s where we will be updating from now on. So all I can say for now is keep checking www.livingoasisliverpool.co.uk for updates on what’s happening.”
Andy Twilley, who was Nationwide Christian Trust’s Director of Christian Life and Ministry and headed up the Living Oasis project, is reported to have left the company. No official announcement of his departure appears to have been made.
At the time of preparing this report no news had been received about the Harrogate store.