A cup of wine to lead to the Holy Spirit?

August 31st, 2008 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 31 (IANS) Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you, says the Bible. But a church in England may soon be asking itself if in the modern day a cup of wine is not the right attraction needed for its dwindling flock to expand.The Birmingham Cathedral will shortly receive a proposal to open wine bars in the city to attract and retain worshippers.

They have just the man for it in Mark Hope-Urwin, a former executive with the John Lewis department stores chain, who could end up being the first director of hospitality in an English cathedral.

Hope-Urwin has been recruited by Birmingham Cathedral to oversee a radical change to its image and branding. His plans, revealed in The Telegraph, include a chain of city-centre wine bars and “loyalty cards” for regular worshippers to obtain discounts at the cathedral’s shops.

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

They would be intended to raise the cathedral’s profile around the city, and would represent a significant departure from current practice, which is limited to bookshops and cafes in some cathedrals and churches.

Hope-Urwin said: “We’re not trying to encourage drinking, but the cathedral has to engage more with the city and find ways of meeting people on their territory. Cathedral wine bars should be seen as a potential commercial operation with profits going into the upkeep of the building and paying for evangelistic work.”

He said that the Church needed to be more imaginative in how it connected with people and should look to the commercial sector to learn about retaining its customers. He argued that the introduction of “loyalty cards” would help encourage a sense of belonging and could be used to get discounts in cathedral book and gift stores, and preferential access to services and performances.

The plans will be presented to the dean, the Very Rev Robert Wilkes, after research has been conducted into how the different schemes would work.

The Very Rev Christopher Lewis, the chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, welcomed the proposals.

“We have to be willing to embrace change to keep places going. 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, the Rev David Phillips, the general secretary of the Church Society, a traditionalist group, 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. The idea of the Church getting involved with selling alcohol will worry people.”

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