Thought for the Week – Redemption Roasters

To mark Prisons Week, Ayla, St James’s Associate Rector, interviews two colleagues at the coffee shop in the courtyard, Redemption Roasters, who share their stories.

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Sercan and Oliwia both work at Redemption Roasters, the coffee shop at St James’s. In this interview with Ayla, St James’s Associate Rector (and daily customer at the café!), they share their stories and explain what Redemption Roasters means to them.

St James’s partnered with Redemption Roasters in December 2022 because it’s a great fit for the church’s social justice values. The café’s purpose is to reduce reoffending rates for people who’ve been through the prison system, through its unique coffee business model. The roastery is in a prison, some of the staff in the cafes have been through the prison system, and the delicious coffee is a good way to support positive social transformation here in London and beyond. Everyone in the congregation and on the staff at St James’s receives a warm welcome and the café is open to the public every day.

Read more about Redemption Roasters here

For more information on Prisons Week, click here

Ayla (A): Sercan and Oliwia, you both work at the St James’s branch of Redemption Roasters and it’s always a pleasure to see you here. What brought you to Redemption Roasters?

Sercan (S): I went to sign on because I was on Universal Credit. I was introduced to all kinds of different companies – building companies, office work – and when I heard about Redemption Roasters and saw all the cakes and coffees I decided to give it a try. And I’m so happy I made the right choice. I’ve met lovely people, I get to make lovely coffee, and I’m really happy.
Oliwia (O): I was working as a waitress and looking for a change. I had never heard of ‘specialty coffee’ and didn’t know what it meant. I emailed Redemption Roasters, came for interview and got the job. I started here one week after this café opened, so I’ve been working at SJP from the beginning.

A: What’s your favourite thing about working at SJP?

O: The people. People from the offices and the church – it’s really fun, and I like talking with the regulars. It’s a really interesting place to work.

A: This is the only partnership Redemption Roasters has with a church. Do you think there is something unique about this connection between St James’s and the coffee shop?

S: We’re all part of a big community here, and the church plays a big role in looking after everyone in and around the area. Even when I’m feeling a bit low, when I come to do my shift it rejuvenates me. I feel 20 years younger every time I come here! It makes me feel good when I’m here. We get such a great experience from the church, and the staff too. It’s a big family and a big proper community.

A: Redemption Roasters works with people who’ve been through the prison system and the roastery is in a prison. What does that connection between prison, justice, and coffee mean to you?

S: I went down the wrong road and Redemption Roasters gave me a big chance. I’m an ex-con. Since I joined Redemption Roasters they brought me my life back. I have a real sense of being recognised and being worth something. Since I’ve come here I’ve got to know lots of great people, I’ve got to know the coffee and the way Redemption Roasters works. I love that feeling of giving a customer exactly what they want and seeing the smile on their face.

O: It was completely new to me. I didn’t know what to think at first. I have to admit that I was a little bit stressed about coming to work with ex-cons because I didn’t know anything about it. But then I came and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s really rewarding. This place makes a big difference.

S: Redemption Roasters reduces reoffending rates through coffee. It helps people get back on the right road, on the right track, and that’s why it’s important. I love coming to work and being a part of Jermyn Street and part of the church. Redemption Roasters does an excellent job and helps people to become better people.

A: Do you have anything you’d like to share with the congregation at St James’s?

S: Yes! I want to say that it’s because of the congregation that we’re here and giving 110% all the time. If you ever want us to come into the church, explain more about Redemption Roasters, or work with you, we’d love to, because I believe that we’re all one big community and we’re all one together.

O: I’m very happy to be part of the church community. And you invited us to your summer party – we really enjoyed that. It’s always nice to be part of something bigger. And we love to make your coffees!

S: We all work together and achieve a lot by working together. People going through homelessness, people working nearby, people at the church, and people in the café – we’re all one community together.