Former tax office converted into popular community church and outreach cafe

Kevin and Teresa Pickup are trusting God to lead them.(Photo: Duncan Williams)

"The Gateway Centre and its community outreach project, Café Avodah, have evolved into a beloved community hub and safe haven in the Cornish town of Launceston," says manager Teresa Pickup.

Step inside Café Avodah, and you'll encounter a diverse array of activities.

"I love the 'knit and natter' group at work, the men's group enjoying pool games, and the Launceston Money Advice Centre offering debt advice," mentions one customer.

"It's a fantastic place to play board games and enjoy some fresh soup," adds another.

The unique North Cornish community hub, nestled within the Gateway Centre, owes its success to the dedication of the Gateway Church and its group of energetic volunteers.

"Back in 2013, the church took a lease on the Gateway Centre with the vision of creating a much-needed community centre," explains Teresa.

The heart of this project was the establishment of Café Avodah, a welcoming space for socialising, which in more recent years has grown in popularity.

"Café Avodah came to life as the community emerged from lockdown," shares Teresa.

The café operates within a spacious building spread across three floors, encompassing prayer rooms, a drop-in centre, laundry facilities, and a kitchen. The top floor is reserved for the main church services, which see a full congregation every Sunday, which are hosted by Pastor Kevin Pickup, Teresa's husband

Kevin and Teresa have embarked on a remarkable journey to transform a disused former HMRC tax office into a thriving church and outreach ministry.

"We envisioned a multifaceted modern church that would serve as a focal point for worship and outreach," says Kevin.

"We were determined to include a cafe, offering a pay-what-you-can-afford range of meals for visitors, along with games, companionship, and Bible studies."

"As the church's congregation flourished, the message of transformation and rebirth through Jesus Christ spread throughout the community. It has been an amazing thing to witness," says Teresa. "We have been blessed to watch the Holy Spirit take residency."

The Gateway Centre.(Photo: Duncan Williams)

Thus, the district HMRC tax office found new life as sacred ground, housing Pastor Kevin and Teresa's practical mission hub.

"Our warm and safe space in the heart of town welcomes everyone," shares Teresa, who lovingly cooks meals in the church cafe.

"We've noticed an increase in visitors, especially during the latest cost of living crisis. Our cafe is large and open, allowing people to come and go as they please."

The cafe's menu expanded to include freshly made meals, soups, cakes, and hot drinks.

"We're a soup hub where people can eat for free or pay what they can afford," explains Teresa. "We believe God values people's wellbeing more than what's in our tills."

What sets Café Avodah apart is its interactive and community-oriented approach. "People rarely come just for coffee," confides Teresa. "They mingle, play games like chess or jigsaw puzzles, and join groups at the community table."

Moreover, the cafe has evolved into a warm hub and a day centre.

"Support workers often bring their clients, fostering a sense of togetherness," Kevin explains.

The cafe collaborates with various independent and government agencies to provide help and support.

"The Launceston Money Advice Centre offers free debt advice and money management, while We Are With You, an addiction charity, provides support and advice."

Café Avodah also actively participates in a voucher scheme for homeless individuals, offering meals and access to their washing and drying facilities.

Despite their success, the future of Café Avodah faces some challenges due to utility costs and general upkeep of such a large building. However, Kevin and Teresa remain steadfast and optimistic, fuelled by the support of the town council and the community.

"We're leaning on God more than ever to guide us," say the Christian couple. "Witnessing lives transformed is incredibly fulfilling. To see people overcome depression, joblessness, poverty, or isolation and grow into healthy and happy individuals brings immense joy."

Duncan Williams is outreach director for the Christian Free Press and has worked for Son Christian Media here in the UK and Recovery Network Radio in the United States. He is an ordained minister and a long-term member of Christians in Media. He provides content and syndicated news for regional publisher