Church of the Messiah has found a new way to entice its neighbours to step inside: coffee. The Bell Tower Café has been selling fair trade coffee, hand-made pastries and organic juice at Avenue Road and Dupont Street since it opened in late February.
“It began about four years ago, when the church decided that we wanted to do some kind of fresh expression to reach people around us that weren’t being reached by conventional church evangelical methods,” says the Rev. Tay Moss, incumbent. The church convened a committee, including experts in business, culinary arts and architecture, to explore its options.
After commissioning an Environics survey, walking around the area and talking to local stakeholders, the team decided to create a space where its neighbours could gather in a comfortable way. “A lot of them are very consumer-based, and they like to kind of have this curated life experience based on consumer choices they’ve made,” says Mr. Moss. “It had to be something which was an open space, and cafés have that kind of character just naturally. People tend to linger.”
As the name suggests, the café sits in the church’s bell tower, contained on a cart with its own water and electrical systems. “It’s this gorgeous little space that everybody comments on when they come in,” says Vivia Kieswetter, who runs the café. “It’s got two stained glass windows in it, and the ceilings are at least 30 feet high.” There are also chairs and tables set up in part of the sanctuary, and the church installed a new Wi-Fi system for those who want to stay and work.
According to Ms. Kieswetter, whom Mr. Moss calls the “Brewmaster of Divinity,” the neighbourhood is starting to notice. “Word of mouth is starting to travel,” she says. “We’re getting a lot of support from the businesses around, kind of talking us up and sending us people.”
The menu of fair-trade coffee, handmade baked goods and organic juice is a deliberate choice. “Part of the mandate of the café was stewardship of the earth and stewardship of the environment, so it’s important to offer organic things and foods based on whole food ingredients,” says Ms. Kieswetter. Customers can also choose to donate $5 to the till, a menu item called “Giving Back” that helps provide coffee and pastries to the area’s less affluent residents when they come in.
While the café has been open mostly mornings so far, it was recently incorporated into an open mic night at the church. More events are being planned for the summer, including meditation and yoga classes and a series exploring artists’ spirituality.
Mr. Moss says one of the most gratifying parts of the café has been learning even more about the church’s neighbours. “You can actually find ways to meet people’s needs who don’t feel like they have needs,” he says. “Somehow they find their way in and they sit down and they hook up their laptop and they sit for a while, you maybe catch them looking at the stained glass window, and you kind of wonder, what is that person thinking about when they look at the stained glass?”
Learn more at www.belltowercafe.ca and stop by for a coffee at the corner of Avenue and Dupont in Toronto.
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