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In community, side by side

Sarah Dean

When I was a young teenager, a retired minster started coming to our church in rural East Anglia. He was of course immediately asked to stop being retired and fill in when our minister was away/off sick/preaching at one of his other 15 churches. Unlike some of the other subs, his name on the service rota was something to look forward to. He told stories from his time as a young minister in Harlem, New York in the 60s. How a young, white, British curate ended up there during the civil rights era I can't recall, but he was in a team serving the community as part of the storefront church movement - churches set up in empty shops, right in the heart of the local community. I can remember thinking that this approach to church was so radical and exciting. My friends and I agreed it answered the question on our bracelets, WWJD. Now of course churches in shops or nonchurchy spaces are a British thing too, in fact I think we are now at the point where you can't order a caramel macchiato on a Sunday morning in a Costa anywhere in the UK without ending up in a cafe church meeting. I love a regional news story about a rural church that now has a post office or village shop or a pub in it, because otherwise the village has none; or about the urban church which is running a laundrette because they surveyed the local community and that was what would improve the lives of local people most. These stories come round with regularity as the media love to marvel at Christians who are actually moved by their faith to provide something that is needed by their local community as opposed to being all judgey about homosexuality. What I'd really like though is for local news to tell us the story behind some of the secular business mash-ups too. For example there is a butchers near us that that offers 'Halal meat. Computer and laptop repairs'. I assume this incongruous combination was born out of diverse family interests, and I think I can guess which is the more successful part. Allowing someone to take apart your crashed hard drive in close proximity to offal is looking for trouble I reckon. Also if it was my family, I would definitely want to name it 'Steak and Chips'. In the high street there is Kebab and Wine. It sells exactly that. I imagine this was born out of the proprietor's visionary attempt to make a kebab shop a bit more classy. I imagine that on ordering their doner, the customer is greeted by their resident sommelier - 'Sir may I suggest that an ideal accompaniment for processed meat shavings of dubious provenance might be a this full bodied burgundy with a decadent mouth feel?' I recently had my hair cut in a Korean restaurant. Again I suspect the story is family businesses sharing. It is unlikely that the clippings will end up in your Bibimbap, but it does still seem a bit unsanitary. No so apparently as the Boho Long Haired citizens of Hackney and the environmental health officers of East London have given it a big thumbs up. Just up from there is the most bizarre combination of all - a place that sells lingerie and sandwiches side-by-side! Less of a mystery to that one, it's called Marks and Spencers