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Relaxed, related, renewed

Good coffee, a sunny patio and quiet conversation are the ingredients to build relationships among guests at Jubilatte Coffeehouse.
Good coffee, a sunny patio and quiet conversation are the ingredients to build relationships among guests at Jubilatte Coffeehouse.

With steaming cups of good coffee, comfortable seats and a spirit of fellowship, coffeehouse ministries are offering a nontraditional and non-intimidating introduction to church.

At Tigard United Methodist Church in Oregon, self-described "pastorista" Staci Lieuallen said the idea for the Jubilatte coffeehouse had been "brewing" in her head for several years.

Opening in November 2011 in the renovated basement of Tigard Church, Jubilatte grew out of smaller gatherings Lieuallen hosted at her home. At the time, she worked in another United Methodist congregation where the pastor tried to convince her that what she was doing at home was church.

"Most of the people were from my community, none of them went to my church and some of them didn't go to church at all," she said. All were friends who had a need to talk about their spiritual life. "I said, 'Let's just get together at my house.' The kids would play, we'd drink coffee and read books and discuss them— they were all spirit-related," she continued.

Lieuallen, a graduate of Vanderbilt University Divinity School, joined Tigard in summer 2011 and worked with Linda Dove, the church's director of Christian education and spiritual formation, to secure a $25,000 matching grant from the Oregon-Idaho Conference. The reality of Jubilatte came together quickly.

"We wanted to be a spiritual center where all faiths could come and be welcomed and not judged," Lieuallen said, "even if you don't have any faith at all. We all fall into that category at so many times in our lives."

She didn't have a plan to establish the interfaith group that meets monthly. But, she explained, after one of the groups that had met at her home moved to Jubilatte, members read The Faith Club (Ranya Idilby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, published by Atria Books) and said "let's start a real faith club. That's been an amazing experience. We've had so many great conversations between Christians, including very progressive to very conservative."

"It's nice to know a place where you can go where you're free to ask questions and know there probably isn't going to be an answer, but it's a place you can come and just be who you are," Lieuallen added.

Jubilatte regular Kris Field-Eaton agrees. She was first introduced to the Tigard church through the Weight Watchers' meetings it hosts.

"Normally, I wouldn't think about going to have 'church coffee'," said the retired teacher, who is not a member of Tigard, "but they're not proselytizing. It's just a nice community feel. They're so welcoming (that) you can be of any persuasion or no persuasion and feel comfortable there."

Jubilatte serves Portland Roasting Coffee. Volunteer baristas join Lieuallen to staff the coffeehouse, where the menu includes a suggested donation for each item. The shop hosts a monthly interfaith group, a weekly meeting of knitters, story time and a children's play area.

For many people, Lieuallen said, Jubilatte is simply a place to "come and get a cup of coffee."

Union is both a new coffeehouse and a new church near Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Opened in November 2012, it is affiliated with the North Texas Conference and University Park United Methodist Church.

Union, as does Jubilatte, wants to build on The United Methodist Church's initiative to encourage spiritual seekers to "Rethink Church."

Union offers excellent coffee and fellowship opportunities and a worship service each Tuesday night, including Communion, said the Rev. Mike Baughman, who helped plant the church.

Baughman does not expect Union "to be a lifelong church for anybody." However, he does want "to help people follow Jesus who haven't connected with God or church before (and) give them touchstones that they will recognize if they walk into a church somewhere else,"  he said. Communion is one such touchstone.

Weekly story time draws children and parents to Jubilattee Coffeehouse at Tigard United Methodist Church in Oregon.
Weekly story time draws children and parents to Jubilattee Coffeehouse at Tigard United Methodist Church in Oregon.

Union provides him the opportunity to speak to and provide pastoral care for people who had never darkened the door of a church. "I can do it anytime," Baughman said. "It's neat to have the ability to walk up and start a conversation with strangers. When you own a coffee shop, there are so many ways to do that."

"We want to keep finding ways to be about outstanding coffee, robust community and engaging causes," he added. "Our hope is, by being a generationally specific church, that eventually we'll be feeding young families and young disciples into other churches."

"We're constantly reminding people that church happens more than that hour in worship," Lieuallen said. "That is happening at our church in Jubilatte and beyond."

Anne Gillem is a freelance writer and editor from Brentwood, Tenn.

To learn more:

Jubilatte Coffeehouse,

Union Coffeehouse,