A new coffee shop, bookshop and community space has opened at Greyfriars Church, Reading.
The new open-plan space, called the Atrium, is open to everyone as a place to catch up with friends, grab a coffee or even as a workspace and will be used as a centre for resourcing the city.
The Atrium forms the new main entrance to the church and houses a gallery space displaying work by local Christian artists and the only Christian book shop in the area. It forms the first part of a two-phase project. The project seeks to transform the church buildings and create a multipurpose, environmentally sustainable space where the community feel welcomed and at home, and where the church can continue to grow its outreach and provide a wider range of facilities to the community.
Part of the Atrium project has been led by Arash and Niloo, an Iranian couple who moved to the UK in 2020 after being forced to leave Malaysia, where they had been running a coffee shop. They have used their experience to help with the Atrium journey and create a friendly space at the church.
The redevelopment has been funded by a series of grants from trusts, the national church, generous donations from the congregation, and a grant from the diocesan Development Fund. The Atrium was completed in November 2021 and phase 2 of the redevelopment, the refurbishment and expansion of the existing Church centre, will be completed in 2023.
A space for everyone
The Revd David Walker, Vicar at Greyfriars, shared his hopes for the future of the Atrium:
“This project has been 20 years in the making so we are delighted that the Atrium is complete and offering a light, transparent and welcoming space for everyone in the community. The entrance is carefully designed to reflect God’s welcome to the world and the light coming out of the building reflects our vision for the space.
“It is a base for our mission and outreach in Reading and a space for the whole city, not just for Greyfriars. We have exciting plans to use the Atrium as a way of building bridges for people from all walks of life to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God, and for people to go out and make Jesus known and resource the city. This includes being a welcome space for local refugees and the homeless, supporting those visiting the JobCentre across the road and partnering, with local Christian charities to provide office space.
“As a resourcing hub in the diocese we have a vision to grow the missional life of the wider church by resourcing congregation plants with people to preach and lead services, support for children and youth ministry, and growing the Kingdom of God beyond the walls of Greyfriars.”
Resourcing the city
The church is one of four Resourcing Hubs in the Diocese of Oxford, part of the growing new congregations initiative. The development of the Atrium compliments the wider resourcing vision to plant a series of churches across the Reading Deanery from Greyfriars. By nourishing and strengthening the existing congregation of Greyfriars, the church can resource new congregations in the future where each can grow into strong and interdependent parish churches.
Greyfriars have been committed to church planting for many years already, with the first missional community, New Hope, formed in 2002 and the most recent plant to Caversham, Thameside and Mapledurham in 2018. The first new plant from the church since it became a Resourcing Hub has begun in Whitley Wood at Reading Gateway Church in the south of the city.
Growing new congregations in the diocese
The growing new congregations initiative is for every type of parish tradition, size and location within the Diocese of Oxford. As a diocese with a rich diversity of rural parishes and expanding urban centres, we recognise the importance of supporting churches in both these settings to meet the different challenges they face and bring God’s kingdom to all people.
Our vision is that every parish will actively consider and engage in growing new congregations in the diocese, to promote a true mixed ecclesial ecology and nurture worshipping communities of every type, tradition, shape and size.