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123 Pop up Restaurant, taster night

August 25th, 2015

Pop up ministry brings community together through food

By Rachael Lucas ABC Open Producer

Besides the local mall, sporting clubs and the local pubs and nightclubs, there are not many spaces in country towns for young people to socialise outside of school or university. Gone are the days when the installation of a skate board ramp was seen as the answer to all the woes of the youth portfolio in many shire councils.

If you ask young person what they need to make the transition from being a teenager to an adult easier in a country town, most will identity one of the following factors; genuine social opportunities, opportunities to make connections and be exposed to new experiences, job opportunities or having access to some form of workplace experience.

For Rich Lanham, the progressive 40 something priest and youth/ families officer for the Anglican diocese of Gippsland, the challenge of filling this need came down to creating what the church describes as a `fresh expression’. A fresh expression basically means a new or modern way that the church can provide outreach and interaction with the community.

It occurred to Rich that a cafe/ drop in centre was a socially cohesive, low cost environment that would respond to the needs of the local youth in Sale, as running a social enterprise would give them confidence through responsibility and interaction.

Rich was offered a four year tenancy on a disused commercial factory space in the centre of town and the ‘123’ space was born. The space is designed to facilitate pop up food events, hospitality training and the creative arts projects for young people in the area.

The pop up cafe/ sometimes restaurant part of the space, aims to create connection, spirituality and entrepreneurialism through the ministry of great food and coffee. Under the guidance of Rich’s wife Jules who has gourmet catering experience, young people will be able to learn basic hospitality skills, beneficial to future employment.

The 123 space launched on Monday night, with a creative pop up dinner event, in which 45 guests participated in a three course meal. Each dish was chaptered by a colourful, multimedia sermon from Rich on connectivity, community and the human condition, followed by an activity designed to make guests spatially aware of their fellow diners.

Mobile phones were out of bounds as the conversation flowed, demonstrating the point that good old fashioned food and conversation can bring people together.

The 123 social enterprise plans to hold more pop up dinner events and activities throughout the year, but in the mean time Rich hopes that young people will embrace the concept of the space as a place to relax, learn, network, gain confidence and feel connected to others in the community.