The Sanctuary Café began in 2001 with a vision given by God to Sue Eadon and others gathered at a ‘Coffee pot’ time of prayer. In 2003 Rev Sally Willett also received a picture of a café with terracing by the side of the canal next to Lymm United Reformed Church (URC) as she, husband Rev Andrew Willett and the church were praying seeking God’s direction for their new ministry. The church discerned God’s call to community outreach, the sale of Christian books and fair trade goods, and to developing an existing prayer and healing ministry. For the church the full vision came later, as they walked in obedience to God’s initial leading. Sue Eadon, already a Christian book agent when she first met Sally, soon agreed to set up a monthly Christian bookstall at the URC’s coffee morning with Ruth Sawyer who sold fair trade goods. By then Sue had also done a business course and written a Business Plan for a community Christian cafe. Fundamental to both visions was the concept of Christians together, serving the community; so the café was brought to Lymm and District Churches Together for discernment, and after prayer and discussion, they agreed to support and finance the setting-up costs through individual and church donations.
God’s blessing and provision were clearly evident in the setting up of the Café, miraculously providing exact funding and sufficient enthusiastic volunteers. The Café Management Group was a response to the call for support from across the churches. This core group still exists, now with other members; and it was this group who, in prayer, were inspired by Ezekiel chapter 47 and given the name The Sanctuary Café.
The Café officially opened on 4th April 2009 and became a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2013. The Sanctuary is ideally situated at the heart of Lymm adjacent to the public library, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, doctors’ and dental surgeries and weekly village market. It has a tranquil canal side setting providing a welcoming meeting place for people of all ages - children, parents and grandparents, offering good and fairly traded food and drinks. The café is a place of sanctuary for everyone, staffed largely by volunteers, some with special needs. We begin the day with prayer, and there is always someone available to lend a listening ear and pray for anyone if needed. There is a meeting room and a prayer room, useful for confidentiality and which is also used for small groups such as Freedom in Christ, Alpha and Christianity Explored courses. The Sanctuary hosts a number of Christian events intended for outreach and to grow the Kingdom of God, from worship nights (Fridays at the Sanctuary, a result also of the prompting of the Holy Spirit), Spa nights with a Christian message, comedy and concert nights and day conferences. We regularly have family fun days to help in outreach and to build community, when we provide free entertainment for all the family, and during the school holidays have had craft clubs, which we would like to see developed to include adults.
As well as a welcome for all, with access to the Café for those with pushchairs and wheelchairs, Sanctuary Cafe provides the ideal space for community groups to gather. It hosts a NCT group, giving young mothers the opportunity to relax and unwind; Kingdom Kids, an informal opportunity for toddlers and carers to have child-focussed informal worship; a Grand-parent group, and also a Credit Union.
For the future we plan to continue to walk in the vision God has given us, undergirding any plans or new developments with prayer. The building will need to be redeveloped in conjunction with the URC, with the inclusion of the canal side terracing and accessible prayer room that Sally had originally envisioned. The fun days we have could be further developed with the help of other Christians from across Lymm and District, providing more effective outreach when the Café is extremely busy.