I was at Friends House on Tuesday, attending a meeting organised by the Plunkett Foundation. The subject was the huge opportunity that exists for community businesses to be located within places of worship. Finding premises is the biggest barrier people find when trying to establish a community business, yet every village has at least one church.
We heard about the success of Yarpole Community Shop, which has operated successfully from within the parish church. But this is one of very few examples. Yet there are literally thousands of churches that sit empty for most of the week.
I've been wondering why this is, when in most diocese there is a Cathedral that very happily balances commercial activity with its role as a place of worship. The Refectory at Norwich Cathedral is a great place to meet, eat and talk with friends. When there, it's very easy to slip into the Cathedral or cloisters for a few moments of silent reflection. You can refresh both your body and mind at the same place.
So perhaps people are approaching this from the wrong direction. Yes, your village would love to have a local shop, where you can buy a pint of milk and some eggs. But your village perhaps has yet to discover the importance of its local church. A shop, or other community business will get people in the door, but siting it in a church will allow them to enjoy the calming atmosphere most can offer. Some might even return on a Sunday morning!