UK Cathedral to Open Chain of Wine Bars

by Gopalan on Sep 1 2008 10:08 PM

How to attract the straying faithful back to the church? Simple. Open a bar. And ‘ensnare’ those coming in for spirits and bombard them with matters spiritual.

That might sound a crazy idea. But that is what a UK cathedral says it intends doing. It is going to open a chain of wine bars to attract new worshippers and raise money.

The bars would feature stained-glass windows, pictures based on a religious theme and be decorated in 'episcopal purple'.

The scheme is the brainchild of Mark Hope-Urwin, a former executive with John Lewis department stores, who has been recruited by Birmingham Cathedral to oversee a radical change in its image.

The new approach to attracting and retaining worshippers could become a blueprint for dioceses across the country,

The objective is to raise the cathedral's profile around the city.

Hope-Urwin, the first 'director of hospitality and welcome' at an English cathedral, insisted that the plan would not encourage drinking but allow the cathedral to find better ways to engage with the city's population.

'Wine bars should be seen as a potential commercial operation with profits going into maintaining the building and paying for evangelistic work,' he said.

'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.

He also suggested 'loyalty cards' should be given to regular worshippers to obtain discounts at the cathedral's shops.

The plan comes after the Association of English Cathedrals accused the Government of having a secular agenda as they were failing to provide 'proper' financial support to cathedrals even while they were giving large grants to museums.

Predictably the Very Reverend Christopher Lewis, the chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, welcomed the Birmingham proposals.

'We have to be willing to embrace change to keep places going,' he said.

'As long as it's done carefully, wine bars are a good idea as they bring people in and are a good meeting place.'

However, traditionalists are uneasy.

Reverend David Phillips, general secretary of the Church Society, said: 'Opening wine bars doesn't seem an appropriate way to generate money.

'People who attend church should give more so that this doesn't have to happen.'

'That has to change if we are to bring people in.'