Posted on : Friday May 13, 2011

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Del.—In January 2010, Hockessin Church’s senior pastor, John Boulet, preached a sermon series based on Acts about “scattering.” He explained what it meant for the early church to leave the center of Jerusalem and move out planting the seeds of the Gospel and what it would mean for Hockessin Church to spread out where God would lead. The church was so serious about this that they formed a “spreading team” and God opened amazing doors. One of those doors now opens to a chic, cozy, sophisticated, church-owned coffee shop.

Hockessin Senior Pastor John Boulet and Associate Pastor Terry Foester share a cup of coffee at LOMA, a church-owned coffeeshop in Wilmington’s Lower Market Area.

LOMA (named to reflect Lower Market Street), was a God-given vision early in 2010. Now it’s bustling with business as the local community and shop owners and workers pop in for fresh brewed coffee, expresso drinks, gourmet snacks and café style food. They’ve even got LOMA t-shirts and souvenirs.

On opening day, lines were long—way out the door, and the shop was packed. Local business leaders and politicians crowded in, praising the coffee shop and the church for stepping into the community in this way. Now, business is steady and there’s usually a few Hockessin members hanging about chatting among themselves and with patrons.

The church raised $100,000 to buy the business. Embrace Wilmington and BCM/D also assisted in the funding through Cooperative Program giving.

Taking that initial step of faith is big for any church, let alone a moderate size, mostly middle-aged congregation, Boulet shared.

“It’s heroic,” Boulet stated emphatically. “It’s a real blessing for the church to step up.”

Associate pastor, Terry Foester, who has been coordinating and overseeing the LOMA process described it as a “missional step” for the church.

Foester said the church wanted to embrace the city, but it’s hard to put your arms around everyone.

“We began to think, instead of the whole city, what if we take just one neighborhood. Who knows what can happen?” Foester explained.

The church knew that by operating a coffee shop, they’d be engaging the neighborhood, but they had no idea how much. Through the original business set-up and day-to-day business, they’re really in the marketplace dealing with contractors, vendors, government agencies, customers, employees and other small business owners and operators. It’s a whole new world and a whole new mission field.

Foester said the opportunity is fabulous to show people who genuine Christians are in so many different aspects of life.

The church is fully using its gift mix. Businesspersons, lawyers, bankers and artists have been providing their talents and skills to make the coffee shop a reality.

To prepare for such an undertaking, Foester met with Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. National Community Church owns Ebeneezer’s Coffeehouse, a similar church/coffeehouse ministry that is making an impact on its community. Foester saw first hand the necessary time, effort and sacrifice the new coffeehouse was going to be.

“It’s a big endeavor and not for the faint of heart,” Foester admitted.

Church members young and old rallied around the decision and are supportive.

“I thought it was a neat idea. I think we needed to step out of the box. We can’t expect everyone to come to us,” Hockessin member, Barbara Perry said.

“I was for the idea from the beginning—going where the people are,” longtime member, Jack Hill, said. But Hill was still amazed at the fruition of the dream.

The church is careful not to be “preachy” through the shop. Boulet, Foester or other members may be about the shop chatting with others. Embrace Wilmington executive director, Mitch Dowell, drops in often. Dowell uses the coffee shop to meet with folks who want to get together for some very non-threatening relaxed discussions about Christianity.

The next step is opening a resource area next door where the church can have special events and meetings. The possibilities will expand. In fact, they’re endless.