Derrick Thames was pastoring a Church of the Nazarene in Erskine, Scotland, when he began dreaming of a creative solution to a local problem: there were no Nazarene churches north of the city of Perth, and there had not been a successful church plant in Scotland in the past 20 years.
During their time as baristas in college at Point Loma Nazarene University, Thames and his wife, Dayna, saw that coffee shops were an ideal place to connect with people who yearn for community but who would probably never visit a church.
Years later, after being part of a Nazarene church planting team in the Republic of Kosova and serving several churches in Scotland, Derrick and Dayna believed a coffee shop ministry could be the solution to the unsuccessful church planting efforts in Scotland.
“One of the things we want to do in planting a new church [is to] reach new people — people who have never heard the gospel and people who have nothing to do with church,” Thames said.
In 2012, Thames and his friends Sundeep Salins, Gregor Banks, and Alan Baird pooled their funds to rent space in Perth. Salins quit his job as a council architect to help open and manage the first Blend coffee shop.
The group opened second Blend location opened in Glasgow in 2016, and Thames was able to obtain the most recent storefront in the Dundee city center this October. This prime location allows staff to engage in ongoing conversations with regular customers thanks to the regular foot traffic and spacious cafe.
Dundee is Scotland’s fourth largest city and was named Scotland’s Best Place to Live in 2019 by the Sunday Times.
“Dundee is on the rise,” Thames said. “We just got in by God’s grace.”
Each Blend location operates on a slightly different model of ministry but all are connected to the Nazarene church in Scotland and operate on the same five values — blessing people, eating together, listening to the will of God and to people's stories, nurturing a love for God and others, and daring to step out in faith.
“[In all three locations,] relationships with customers and the team is one of Blend's driving values,” Thames said.
The baristas are encouraged to step from behind the bar to get to know the customers and listen to their stories.
When the Dundee location opened, Thames and two other bivocational church planters, Tori Stone and Chris Franklin, began meeting with a small group of people in the Thames’ home on Sunday afternoons.
Over the past six months, the small house church has expanded to nearly 20 regularly participating adults and 10 children. They quickly outgrew the space and moved the Sunday gathering to the café in April to accommodate for the growing group.
The gatherings are simple times of Bible teaching, prayer, worship, and communion. Every gathering is followed by a meal.
“We’re convinced church has just gotten too complicated,” Thames said. “We just really believe the church should be much more simple — not simplistic, but simple. The district has been very supportive in sending, blessing, and encouraging us. The church in Perth has been extremely supportive by coming up, doing prayer walks in the city, and joining us in the shop.”
The Dundee church plant is the second of two new works in Scotland last year.
“The Dundee plant is very exciting, as it’s a three-way partnership between Blend coffee shops, Perth Trinity Nazarene church, and the British Isles North District,” said Jim Ritchie, the district superintendent. “This model is one we will use again in our desire to plant regularly on our district, as it is very replicable. Working together in this way is central to our district strategy. It is self-sustainable, entrepreneurial, and innovative. [I] see it not only as a vibrant part of the district’s life now, but a sign of hope for our future.”