Fr Alex Gowing-Cumber of All Saints, Chafford Hundred (a.k.a. “The Beacon”), has kicked off a creative style of church at his local Starbucks.

Meeting on the first floor of the recently opened massive Currys store, the idea is for people of any background to simply gather to talk around themes in a Christian context.

Alex pic“I want it to feel like a college common room,” says Alex (left), “with the buzz of conversation, and people getting up from one group and engaging with another group in another part of the cafe”.

Alex has done this before, when there was a Starbucks in Borders. He told Transformation Thurrock that they only ever had five or six people turned up, but it was successful nevertheless, because people talked with each other and touched on deep things. Now, instead of being surrounded by books, the discussion is surrounded by electronics.

With Alex for this first discussion were two students on placement at All Saints. Liz lives in Colchester but studied at Christchurch, Canterbury, and has spent time at St Matthew’s, Westminster; and Ben from Leigh-on-Solent is currently studying at Moorlands Bible College near another Christchurch in Dorset (where Alex went). They are both exploring ordination.

The theme for today was Art. Liz has bought along her laptop with a whole host of portraits of Jesus from around the world. We discussed how different cultures have their own various images of Christ, and their own interpretation of whom in society Jesus would defend, such as those locked up in Guantanamo Bay, or in chains of poverty in the Third World, and so on. He’s also been depicted looking like something out of a Swedish holiday brochure – blond and tanned. We noted that there is also the one image of Jesus the Jew – a rough carpenter of ordinary looks living in occupied Israel under the Roman Empire: Christ is a much for the captors as for the captives, and for the rich as for the poor. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem he didn’t overthrow the tyranny of the occupation, but the tyranny of exclusion from the Temple.

The Cafe Church forum ‘thingy’ – it has no name – intends to meet every first Wednesday of the month between 2 and 5pm. All are welcome. For the next five ‘meetings’ the discussions will be around the five senses.

Starbucks is on the first floor of Currys at the Lakeside Retail Park (over by Toys R Us, PC World and Range).