St Thomas’s Church in Norwich bought the pub next door for £500,000 after the Reverend Ian Dyble remembered seeing a vicar behind a bar many years earlier.
“It was in the Lake District on holiday, in my pre-vicar days. I remember thinking what a good idea it was to engage in the community in that way, because as we all know, people’s interest in church is waning. It’s a way for us to reach out into the community,” he said.
Fittingly named The Mitre, the pub was put up for sale 18 months ago after a spell as a Chinese takeaway and bought by the church after a fundraising drive.
But Mr Dyble insists alcohol is only a very small part of the initiative.
“It’s also for people’s perception of the Church to be changed. I would hope it would be a pleasant surprise for people. Jesus turned water into wine, he did it at a wedding party.
“It’s not about drinking, it’s about doing things for enjoyment rather than addiction and it’s about being responsible.
“Christians can have fun – I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t enjoy it responsibly,” he said.
The pub, which is set to open on Monday, will serve bottled ales and wine and will initially only be open during the day time, though this will be extended to 9pm after a few weeks.
Proceeds will go to fund the church’s charitable causes including international development and supporting the homeless.
Mr Dyble also hopes it will become a community centre where people can meet for clubs and classes and swap skills. “It’s a public home, not a public house,” he said.