'Cafés come and go, but if you believe in Jesus, you will live forever' Een praktisch-ecclesiologisch onderzoek naar de praktijk van een centrum van London City Mission, Café Forever
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Café Forever is a mission centre that is part of London City Mission. A few years ago, it changed from a traditional LCM community centre called Glengall Christian Centre, into Café Forever. In various ways Café Forever reaches out to the local community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time they try to bring cohesion into the community. Café Forever is closely related to the City of Peace Community Church that meets on Sundays in Café Forever. In Church of England’s report Mission-shaped Church (2004) Fresh expressions of Church are being introduced. This report describes new ways of being church in our time and a Caféchurch is proposed as an example of a Fresh expression of Church. Even though there are plenty of books on new ways of being church, little empirical research has been done on this subject. Subsequently, it is also relevant to do research in this area to sharpen our minds. Café Forever is an example of a Caféchurch and I decided to do my investigation on Café Forever. My research question is: Is Café Forever a Fresh expression of Church? In this thesis I considered the development within Practical Theology that took place in the past decades. Within this development the importance of a faithful, accurate description of congregations is rediscovered. Subsequently it is brought into conversation with theological theories. The results of such a conversation could lead to strategic proposals that can help improve the practices. At the same time its results could test the durability of theories. The view that is proposed moves from practice to theory and back to practice. I discussed the concept of Practical Theology as is proposed by Browning (1991), Dingemans (1996) and Swinton&Mowat (2006). Congregational Studies is a field within Practical Theology that encourages to do research on congregations. The handbook of N. Ammerman (ed.), Studying Congregations (1998), presents a research model that I used to describe Café Forever. The research model introduces a way of gathering information (by using research methods from social sciences) by looking to the congregation from four different perspectives, which are called ‘frames’. It tries to discover the local theology of a congregation. I used the four frames to make a thick description of Café Forever as we can see in section 2 to 5 from this thesis. Section 2 describes the geographical and social context as well as the history of Café Forever. In the third section I looked at the identity of Café Forever by identifying the activities and the accounts the workers and visitors gave. Section 4 describes the processes that take place between workers of Café Forever. In section 5 I did research on the resources of Café Forever (money and people, as well as commitment) and the way in which the workers make use of the various resources. In the last section I examined the local theology of Café Forever. Café Forever reaches out to all the people of the local community, because they believe that God reaches out to everyone. In the end they hope that through their work people are converted to the Christian faith and join the church. However, their vision on their work as missionaries is not clear. For example, they don’t seem to distinguish between what God does (Missio Dei) and what human beings can do. This leads to different opinions about the worth of the various aspects of their work as missionaries in Café Forever and causes tension between the workers. In order to answer my research question: Can we call Café Forever a Fresh expression of Church? I initiated a conversation between the practices of Café Forever and the five principles that characterize a Fresh expression of Church, as mentioned in Mission-shaped Church (2004). From this I concluded that Café Forever can be called a Fresh expression of Church.