Kahaila - update Jan14

Monday, 6 January, 2014

Paul Unsworth updates the story of Kahaila in Brick Lane.

Duration: 8:27   | Download Download video (flv) | Download Download video (wmv) | View on YouTube


Paul Unsworth: The story began four years ago when I came down to Brick Lane one Sunday morning and... there was 20,000 people walking up and down Brick Lane every Sunday 'cos there's various different markets. And, as I was walking along, there were Muslims out on the street evangelising; there's people doing tarot card reading and - what really struck me was - there was no Christian witness. Everyone is in church on a Sunday morning and, it's not that there's a problem with that, but there's a sense that these people on Brick Lane are in their 20s and their 30s - what we consider the dying generation of the church - so I was thinking, 'How do we actually take the church out into this community rather than trying to think about how these people will come into the church?'

People tend to share life in coffee shops. If you've got a problem and you're going through something in life and you phone up a friend and say, 'Hey, we need to talk'. They say, 'OK, let's go for a coffee' so the vision then became opening a café on Brick Lane where people can gather to have community and that the centre of that is a faith community that is building relationships and building community for the purpose of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Finally, we managed to get a property and it needed a huge amount of work doing to it. We needed to take off the whole shop front and we needed to take out 20cms of concrete throughout the whole place, the roof at the back was collapsing so we needed to take the whole roof off. So it was a huge task and initially there was a team of us who just came in and just did the hard labour but we began to discover it's such a great space and, as we cleared it out, as we took the roof off, then we began to shape it and mould it into the kind of environment where we thought people would love to come and relax and be in.

In total, to get this project off the ground, we ended up needing over £100,000 and I suppose if we'd have looked at that at the beginning we'd have thought, 'How are we going to raise £100,000?' We probably would have got a bit disheartened and given up but people began to get behind it. But the other thing is we were saying we wanted to be one of the best coffee shops in London…so we want to set our standards really high and I think people really want to get behind that and say, 'Yeh, we want to do excellence, we want to strive for the best' and in that people said, 'We love that, we love that vision, we wanna get behind it, we wanna support it.' And so we did, and it was amazing how that within six weeks, we raised £60,000 and then from that the London Baptist Association gave us money, New Wine gave us money towards setting up this project. So I think the key thing is it's about giving people a vision that's bigger than themselves and how you communicate that but also strive for excellence. That's really important.

People often ask me the question, 'How is it church?' And 'What do you do as a church?' Now Sundays is the busiest day on Brick Lane so we're not going to close the doors and just be open for a church service so we go out onto the streets, go praying around the area, get talking to people; there's loads of different ways in which you can just enjoy getting to know people in Brick Lane 'cos Sundays is when the 20,000 people are here so we want to go out and engage them. So therefore we have a church service on a Wednesday evening and that's when the gathered faith community comes together.

Male voice: I got baptised in Kahaila so it's actually become a really special place in my walk with Christ. I've been here a year now; I started when it first got set up. I was looking for a church at the time but what it's done for me is it's hardened my walk with Christ; it's made me a stronger Christian and again, just built up a strength and a closer relationship with Jesus which made me come to the realisation that to make the next step I needed to be baptised and I really needed to confirm and broadcast my love for Christ. I believe Kahaila was very much at the forefront and at the beginning of that walk with Christ and, now, I just want to take it a step further and see where Kahaila takes me and where I go from here in my walk with Jesus.

Paul Unsworth: The core team of the church is about 25 people and we also often have between 10 and 15 visitors each week and some of them are people who have experience of church in the past but, for one reason or another, have stopped going and so they are maybe what are defined as dechurched. We also have a number of people, who are customers of the café, who are intrigued by the fact that we are a church who come and visit and see what it's like and so we've had a number of people who've come through that way as well.

Ever since day one, the café has just gone so well. Within the first 18 months we were able to clear all of our overheads of interest-free loans that we had, which is an amazing testimony of God's grace to us but also thinking about the importance of running the business 'cos, for us, if the business failed, the mission failed because if all of a sudden we're not making money, we don't have the funds to keep the mission going. If we have to close the café, we have to close the mission. We wanna focus on every area of the business, it's the kind of business that you've got to focus on running a great environment where people really want to relax and hang out in, a clean environment, customer service is significant – great customer service and a great product at a good price – those are key elements of business. And so, constantly, we're looking at how do we make sure we provide these things because even that shares something about the good news of Jesus Christ.

As a pastor of the church what is my role? And I see it as to empower a younger generation of leaders. We have people in here who are all in their 20s and thinking about, how do we empower them to become all that God has for them, the purpose and the plan that God has for them? How do we equip them and release them to go and do that?

Female voice 1: When I moved to London I was really keen to get involved in doing some prison work but there wasn't really any opportunity to do that so I spoke to Paul about it and he said that Kahaila would be really happy to support me and empower me to set something up myself. And, from there, I've ended up working in Holloway prison for about two days a week, just mentoring and getting alongside some of the younger women there, helping them in the difficult situations they face and just equipping them with skills to prepare them for when they're back outside.

Female voice 2: I'm really passionate about helping women involved in prostitution find a way out and Kahaila now pays me one day a week to help me work with those women, particularly in the local area. And we're now looking at opening a new shop with a bakery attached where we can train the women in a new skill that gives them purpose and a new trade and a way of getting an income.

Paul Unsworth: I think the exciting thing is to think about, 'Who is God going to bring into the life of Kahaila next and allowing them to take Kahaila to another place, to another level?' I do have vision, I would like to do more Kahailas and what they look like will depend on the kind of people that God brings to us and sends to us. Personally, I've become a dad; I've a six month old son. Now, doing services on a Wednesday evening and just being out doing mission on a Sunday becomes a little bit difficult in terms of raising my child in that faith community so we're thinking what would another 'third space' look like where young families can come and hang out and relax and get to know other people so we're thinking about maybe another café that has that kind of area for children to come and play and relax in and maybe maybe not so busy on a Sunday.

So who knows where we end up? Who knows where we go? I think we are just so grateful to what God has done in our first year here at Kahaila and we're excited about what he'll do in the future. And there's nothing better than sitting in God's provision and knowing that this is what God has called me to do.

This story is an update to:


Thanks for posting this - loved such a thoughtful and prayed through approach leading to a very practical kind of outreach.

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