If only we had wine bars to save our churches

If only we had wine bars to save our churches


I just don’t think they get it. The Church of England is hemorrhaging members and money, even to the point of finding it difficult to maintain its historic cathedrals. So what is their plan for reversing this trend? Are they formulating a bold new evangelization? Seeking to bring the basic truths of the Gospel to a new generation? Reaching out to the masses of new immigrants who might be receptive to the faith of their new homeland? Not at all.

Instead one cathedral has hired an experienced retail marketer who plans to open wine bars and hand out “loyalty cards.”

The first “director of hospitality and welcome” at an English cathedral has unveiled far-reaching plans to make its operations more business-like. Mark Hope-Urwin, a former executive with the John Lewis department stores chain, has been recruited by Birmingham Cathedral to oversee a radical change to its image and branding. His plans, revealed today, include a chain of city-centre wine bars and “loyalty cards” for regular worshippers to obtain discounts at the cathedral’s shops.

I don’t think they could find a more telling cliché for the perceived elitism of English-speaking Anglicanism today than a wine bar, which is the sort of place you find the snooty upper-middle class dual-income, no-kids yuppies, not salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar and white-collar families.

The very attitude of the brains behind this idea is telling.

“We are in a competitive environment. People have all kinds of distractions in their busy lives and at the moment too many just see the cathedral as a big brick monolith. That has to change if we are to bring people in.”

If you approach the mission of the Gospel as just one among many distracting entertainments on the menu, then you’ve already lost the fight. If I’m looking for a “distraction” or entertainment, then church is low on the list.

Being a committed Christian of the sort who will remain loyal to the local parish is a lifestyle, not a hobby. Christianity doesn’t live in a box to be brought for an hour on Sunday, but is something that changes the very essence of your being and brings a change to your entire life through an encounter with the Person of Jesus Christ.

But you go ahead with your wine bar. Oh, and how many points do I have to earn on my loyalty card before I get one of those snazzy collared purple shirts?

Photo credit: Yajico. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.