Locked to the outside world

The doors rattled again. It’s been happening several times a week but not as frequently. People are returning to the spot they used to come to build friendships, hold meetings, relax with a cup of coffee. But now, the doors are locked to the outside world. We kept the back door open for many weeks after our flood damage and eventual floor repair. Up until recently, it was a daily occurrence stopping people who strode into the café only to find it empty. There is always regret on my part informing them it’s closed. There is always sorrow on their part that one of their favorite places has disappeared. But our conversations end in hope that it may return. More than once a disappointed guest has stopped to pray for us before leaving.

Last week, the city of Spokane contacted us to see if they could set up a training event for people involved with the one-day point in time count of homeless people. The count will be held in January and will determine the amount of social service dollars our city will get for federal and state funding to help with the homeless crisis. We liked being the kind of church the city called for help and assistance in solving social problems. Without our coffee shop, it’s now up in the air whether they will book the training here. Most likely not. I anticipate calls from the city for help will be less frequent.

“Locked to the outside world”. That is not a phrase we ever wanted to use in relationship to our church. Our dream was to have the kind of church space with wide open doors inviting the community in on their terms and their time to get to know us and eventually discover what we know of Jesus. The coffee shop helped us create what we wanted. Now, the building feels a little cold and lifeless during the week. It’s hard to describe how many times spontaneous meetings, personal introductions, pastoral counseling, and social relationships were being connected here on a daily basis. People felt a sense of hope, peace, and comfort from simply being in a familiar place for such things.

Someone said to me that there are other coffee shops like Starbucks where they can do all that. It’s hard to describe how it’s not the same. Comparing the relationships, prayer, Bible study, and fellowship that went on here to two people meeting at Starbucks is like comparing the Coeur d'Alene lake shore to the ocean beach. Yeah, its water hitting a shoreline and we use the term “beach” for both of them, but they are worlds apart in experience. Maybe I’m just biased and think too highly of what was happening.

I have a question for you. What did our Café mean to you?

Write us a note and email to office@gatheringhouse.org

Pastor Rob Bryceson

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