By Stephen Cauchi
6 April 2022
A new café on Syndey Road looks a bit different to the standard. For one thing, there’s a crucifix on the wall, for another, there’s a priest at the coffee machine.
Run by Christ Church Brunswick, the Lamb and Flag aims to reach out to passers-by, giving the church Sydney Road frontage it has previously lacked.
It’s meant Christ Church vicar Bishop Linsday Urwin has seen his ministerial tasks expand, to encompass that of barista.
Bishop Urwin said customers were curious about why a priest was the one behind the coffee machine.
“They come in and say, ‘Oh, you’re really a priest? What’s going on?’” Bishop Urwin said.
“The purpose of it is, is to generate questions – [it’s] a really good way of creating a scenario where people ask you a question, rather than you battering them with a piece of information.”
Bishop Urwin said people in Brunswick knew they needed cafes, but didn’t know they needed God.
“We’re responding to something they do know they need in the hope that we can introduce them to something they’re not sure they need, or even are sure exists,” he said.
To promote conversations about spirituality, there is a a table at the front of the cafe called the “common table”. Sitting there is a sign that someone is open to conversation with anyone who turns up.
The café is open from Tuesday to Saturday, but shuts on Thursday so it can offer a free lunch to anyone who wishes to attend. This usually draws 40 to 50 people.
Bishop Urwin said this was a social enterprise, which served as a good witness.
He said the location of the café allowed the church – which faces onto Glenlyon Road, around the corner – to reach out to passers-bye.
On top of its day-to-day café routine, it hosts a morning tea after Sunday mass and a weekly “Bible and Beer” event.
Bishop Urwin said every week someone had come in off the street to have a cup of coffee at the church’s post-service morning tea.
At Sunday evening Bible and Beer sessions attendees meet for music, teaching – currently on how Philippians might relate to living a Christian life in Brunswick – and prayer, all over a drink. These are advertised at the café, and open for the public to walk in.
Bishop Urwin said the café advertised itself as church-run in subtle ways – a priest behind the counter, a crucifix on the wall – but in Brunswick, that was enough to dissuade some customers.
But he said the cafe’s “soft evangelism” had also attracted customers to the church, with a couple of customers coming along to the Bible and beer nights.
And other customers would think about it. Bishop Urwin said sometimes a person had to think “I’ll come” four or five times before they did so. He said recently a young Turkish woman came in, saw the sign for Bible and beer, and said “I’ve never read the Bible, I think I might come on Sunday night”.
Bishop Urwin is at the café Tuesday through to Saturday, about half his working hours. On Tuesday he’s up early to run the church’s 6.30am morning prayer, followed by mass at 7am. It’s then straight to the cafe to start on the coffee machine.
It consumes a lot of energy, but the long-term plan is for volunteers to run the café.
Bishop Urwin said the cafe outreach was a “big adventure”. He said it was not meant to compete against a regular cafe serving 600 coffees a day, but to be a community space for conversation.