It’s an unlikely place for church. A coffee shop. Espressos and lattes. Hot chocolates and smoothies. Muffins and oversized cookies.
Immanuel United Methodist Church brought church to the people. Ash Wednesday was happening in the midst of the tables, soft chairs and a blazing fireplace.
Rev. Katie Dawson, Immanuel’s Lead Pastor and Associate Pastor Todd Treese were at a table marked with a purple stole. A sign offered, simply, “ashes and prayers.” Cards offered encouragement – “You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of dust. You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.” (Gungor)
A mother and her young children stopped by while they were on their way to school. Her daughter told the pastors on Tuesday night, “I’ll be there; I’ll see you tomorrow for ashes.” Her bold statement became a brave witness when she received the mark of the cross, in ashes, on her forehead before she headed off to be with her classmates.
Bringing church to Grounds for Celebration, in Beaverdale, “wasn’t too far from what Jesus did,” Todd said. “Jesus was pretty public. He went where the people were.” A book study group and the prayer shawl knitters from Immanuel gather there. The owner of the coffee shop is comfortable with church and community groups gathering at Grounds for Celebration. A group from the Roman Catholic Church in the community was around a table next to the Ashes and Prayer table, supporting each other.
People who came in for coffee noticed Immanuel’s table. “They’ve smiled,” Todd reported. “People have looked over and have seen ashes and prayers.” Whether the Grounds for Celebration customers who came in for a large coffee came over to Immanuel’s table, or not, Todd is convinced “the thought will be in their mind today. Maybe there’ll be a spark of love that comes out or they might get to work and say, ‘you know what I saw at Grounds for Celebration – they were doing the imposition of ashes.’’ He believes “it’s a message that will leave here.”
For Pastor Katie, “It’s important that we be here. We’ve had some private conversations and prayer even though we’re in a public space.” She agreed that it’s "an interesting irony to be more private in a public place."
The table card that was freely shared offered a reminder that “on Ash Wednesday we put ashes on our head to remind us of those around the world who are mourning and suffering…our need for repentance and the mercy and grace of God…[and a] reminder that in spite of everything we are called, named, claimed, and beloved children of God.”
And for everyone who entered Grounds for Celebration, making the bell above the door ring as they came in for a morning beverage, whether they received the blessing of the ashes or not, a prayer was lifted up. “By the redemptive power of the cross, dust off our hearts [O God] and put within us a new spirit, that we may repent of our sins and lead lives worthy of your calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Click he to listen to the conversation
with Rev. Katie Dawson and Pastor Todd Treese