AN OASIS OF PEACE IN WATERFORD
30th March 2017
Saoirse* walked into the Serendipity Book Store, situated on The Quay in Waterford without knowing what to expect. The sign outside the shop promised hot and cold drinks. There seemed to be bookshelves around tables and various odds and ends. Little did she know as she stepped inside the light and airy room that she would leave with much more than she imagined.
The Serendipity Book Store, Waterford is a drop-in centre with a boutique theme that is run by Brad and Sheri Bushey. Brad and Sheri have lived in Waterford for more than a decade. They came from America to lead in a church planting project that have since resulted in a small, but regular group of worshippers who meet weekly in their home.
From the inception of their work in Waterford they were hoping to establish a centre that does not only look after the needs of worshippers, but provides a tangible service to the community as well. They finally succeeded in finding the right premise and gather resources to accomplish their dream about three years ago.
“Though small, the Waterford Seventh-day Adventist Company has been aggressive in their outreach.” Brad explains. “In response to a dream that one of our Irish members had, the group started a legal charity company to hold this work. Saol na Croí Fellowship Limited (which means Way or Life of the Heart) was established about four years ago to minister to the needs of the Waterford community and is a registered charity in the Republic of Ireland.”
Since opening Serendipity the footfall has steadily increased. “It takes time to develop trust in the community,” Brad says. “In the beginning people seemed not to take notice and walked right on past. Now we find that the situation is improving. There is a constant flow of traffic. People are dropping in to make use of our services. They also know our name”
“Our services are very much focussed on the needs of the community,” explains Brad. “We find that we draw interest with our offer of free blood pressure tests every Thursday.” When people come in they are greeted by the friendly hosts. They find a peaceful and hopeful atmosphere. There are a variety of decaffeinated hot drinks and fruit based cold drinks for sale along with other health products. “We have well stocked shelves with books on health, spiritual growth, and life development. The Serendipity book shop is one of the few places in Waterford where you can buy a Bible,” says Sheri.
Lighting in the shop consists of full-spectrum lights. Brad explains that these lights provide a spectrum of light that is close to daylight. “This light is known to lift people’s spirits, to combat Seasonable Affective Disorder (SAD), and to foster a sense of wellness,”
“We provide a counselling service focussed on health coaching and dealing with difficult issues in life,” says Sheri. “This is how we met Saoirse. She originally came in just to browse through the shop, but after a cup of tea and conversation she returned regularly. Saoirse was battling with depression that was brought on by the experience of a traumatic loss in her life. A psychiatrist was treating her with heavy medication. A counsellor had told her to just get on with life. We were able to talk to her about inner healing and the fear of death. It was a wide ranging discussion that led to us exploring themes of judgement and the Great Controversy. She left with a copy of ‘Steps to Christ’ in her hand and encouragement. She did not take long before she came back. This time her partner was with her. We were able to help her partner with some health difficulties. Today there is an ongoing friendship and the couple visit our shop regularly.”
“This morning we had two interesting conversations. Two community workers came in. They were inquisitive. They were compiling a list of community services in the area and wondered if we could be part of their catalogue. We spoke to them about the Seventh-day Adventist Church, although we find that most people do not have any frame of reference to understand what the Church is about. Somebody came in who described himself as Pagan. The conversation was friendly however and he said he could be friends with Christians. We think he will be back.”
The days vary in busy-ness. “Some days three people come in. There are other days when 50 people will come through our doors. Fortunately, one of our church members, John, volunteers in the shop to help when it gets really busy. Our project is still very much dependent on funding. We seem to be able to recoup about 50% of our expenses through sales. We have been experimenting with various new product lines to improve our funding position,” says Brad. “In the mean-time, however, we measure our success by the number of quality conversations that we can have, and we celebrate every person who comes back and begins to feel connected to the space that we are trying to create for them.”
The name “Serendipty” says it all. It is a place that endeavours to provide an unexpected oasis of happiness. If you are ever in Waterford, plan to drop in and greet Brad and Sheri.
*Soairse is not her real name as we are committed to maintain the confidentiality of our clients.