Cafes replace churches as arbiters of morality.

Popular cafes with inviting décor, sumptuous menus and the intoxicating aroma of coffee are offering moral sustenance to residents of the Eastern Suburbs after plastering their walls with positive affirmations, while local religious organisations struggle to retain their flock.

Artistically crafted messages in on-trend fonts and curated colour schemes comfort diners as they seek physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment in their new sanctuaries of soul.

Brenda is a long-time local who lives her life according to the carefully-selected messages adorning the walls of her favourite cafes.

I believe in me she affirms, and I believe in the person I dream of becoming.

She also finds solace in the quotes:

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you and

I am perfect just the way I am, despite the fact the adjacent quotes appear to contradict each other.

AJ lives according to the hand-painted edicts at the café where he is given his daily bread. He finds as much inspiration in a cafe as he does from his favourite social media influencers, and his most beloved quote among many is:

Don’t be eye candy, be soul food

Why?

“Because I haven’t eaten candy for seven years, that’s how I keep my beach body.”

Friend Siiy agreed, and pointed out a quote beside their favourite table, which read:

I am a magnet for true success – “…after all, why do we go to cafes in the Eastern Suburbs, if not to flaunt our success and be surrounded by it?”

Chris, meanwhile, was similarly inspired;

Be around those who feed your soul, not eat it he read aloud, before explaining that pious baby-boomers do not feed his soul.

“…and this sauce is so delicious I feel my soul uplifted already. It’s so much better than that tiny wafer you get at mass, and the church still doesn’t offer a vegan option.”

Daisy and Patrick find sufficient guidance over Sunday brunch, and have no plans to return to religion, saying:

“The church still has its role, don’t get us wrong. It reminds our kids why we pay a fortune for their private school. Plus, the entertainment at the Easter and Christmas kids’ mass is much cheaper than taking the whole family to the movies,” before adding,

“We’ll go back to church when we’re allowed to take our dogs.”

For Shar, forgoing the church for the café is a question of space.

“How can I let God into my life when Marie Kondo is already telling me to declutter? Plus, I am eternally nourished by this quote:

Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity, and it’s not as if the 10 commandments spark joy.”

First published in The Beast magazine, January 2023.

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