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Looking to reduce landfill, UK churches offer repair services

Norwich, United Kingdom

Mending leaf blowers, vacuum cleaners, repairing rips in trousers are not tasks that you would normally associate with a church. At Meon Valley Methodist Church in Hampshire, this is exactly what is happening.  

Environmentally-friendly church members decided to see what they could do to reduce the amount of broken portable domestic items taken to the tip. With the aid of a grant from the local council, they installed a shipping container in the car park and set up a ‘repair café’. In addition, they were allocated a basement room in the church.

UK Repair Cafe1

The Meon Valley Repair Café grand opening PICTURE: Courtesy Martin Letts and Meon Valley.

Meon Valley Circuit steward Martin Letts believes strongly in the Bible reading that “faith without deeds is useless”.  

“Churches can take a lead in addressing challenges such as climate change and our throw away society. I believe we in churches don’t get to grips with the real world sometimes.”

He said the church’s repair café is not only about protecting the environment but also about combatting depression and helping men talk about their feelings. It is also, he said, an example of how the community, parish, district and county councils can work together with a church based project “for the greater good”.

Meeting once a month, the café has already proved extremely popular as Letts indicates.

“The team has engineers qualified to repair electrical items and test them to the required national standards. Word is spreading and there are now an increasing number of items to repair. An oft heard cry is ‘Could you just have a look at my broken…?’ Possibly with the words: ‘I have asked my other half but they haven’t the time to fix it’!”

“We had a chap bring in a broken leaf blower who said ‘it works better now than it has ever done’,” said Letts. “I managed to repair a broken lead and put it back together (he’d taken it apart). We repaired a guitar case that had been rescued from the local tip. Its handle was broken so my friend John renewed it with a piece of rope and covered it with leather. I repaired a clock the other week – I had never done this before so it was a learning process for me.”

No payments are sought unless parts have to be purchased but donations welcomed.  

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Meon Valley is just one of many UK churches that are setting up repair cafes. Other examples include St Michael’s Church in Stoke Gifford, Bristol, Locking Castle Church in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and the Chesterfield Repair Café at Chesterfield Baptist Church in Derbyshire. Everyone involved is a volunteer, keen to share their repair skills. Visitors to the cafés can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, a chat, and even lend a hand if they wish.

UK Repair cafe Martine Postma

Sustainability activist Martine Postma who organised a repair café in Amsterdam in 2008. PICTURE: Martin Waalboer and Repair Café International

The concept stems from a simple idea formed in the Netherlands. In 2008, sustainability activist, Martine Postma organised a repair café in Amsterdam, which proved an instant success. Others soon followed, resulting in the creation of a non-profit organisation – Repair Café International – which helps local groups to start their own repair cafes both in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world.

Claudia Schipper, of Repair Café International, told Sight, that “churches are very popular repair café venues and church communities are popular organisers”.

“Especially in the US and UK, all kinds of churches and church communities are involved in repair cafes. I am aware of some church communities in Germany being active also here in The Netherlands.

Schipper said that “churches and church communities are logical partners”.

“These communities from the core of their belief, share the idea of caring for the Earth, connecting people and stewardship and operate in an organised way so adding a repair café as a new agenda item is relatively easy.”



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