News Archives

Church coffee shop serves up hospitality for neighborhood

11/25/2002 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: Photographs are available with this story

A UMNS Feature By Kathy L. Gilbert*

When the Rev. Hilde Marie Øgreid heard 1,200 college students were moving into the neighborhood, an idea started percolating in her mind.

Øgreid is pastor of Immanuelkirken United Methodist Church, a church in the middle of a working-class neighborhood in Oslo, Norway. When she heard nearby Oslo University was building a student housing unit in the neighborhood, she started planning a way for the church to get in touch with the students.

For Øgreid, the idea of a coffeehouse seemed like a perfect match for the church, the neighborhood and the students.

She organized a committee, convinced church members to give their money and support, and immersed herself in the "coffee shop culture." As a result, cafe b was born next to the church and is becoming a popular neighborhood hangout.

The name for the coffee shop came from a variety of sources: Bjølsen is the name of the neighborhood, Bergens Gata is the name of the street, and "be" in Norwegian means to pray, she explains.

Everything seemed to fall into place, she says. A video store next located next to the church had just lost its lease, and the church had received money through an elderly member's estate.

"The coffee shop culture is just beginning to take off in Norway and is especially popular for the 20- to 40-year-old age group," the pastor says.

With a soft smile, she says, "We are bringing the church to the people."

A young woman with long, red curly hair, Øgreid doesn't look like a "typical pastor." The 28-year-old hangs out at the coffee shop every Tuesday from 10 to noon just to talk to anyone who comes in.

At first, she wore her pastor's collar, but she soon found people were intimidated by it. "No one would talk to me," she says, laughing. Now she just wears a cafe b nametag. She clears tables, washes dishes, brews coffee and generally makes herself available to anyone who wanders into the cafe.

"I think it helps that I am young and I don't look like the 'pastoral myth' most people have in their minds. It takes a lot of time and patience. I just let people know I am here if they need someone to talk with."

Young mothers with infants have become some of cafe b's most loyal customers.

"We didn't think about them (young mothers) when we were planning the coffee shop, but they have made the cafe their home," she says. Young mothers with infants in strollers meet at the shop to talk and share with each other most mornings.

"I have seen as many as 24 baby carriages in here at a time," Øgreid says.

In the afternoons and at night, young adults come in. The church has started a Sunday evening worship service once a month instead of the traditional noon service as a way to be more accessible to students. Jazz bands play at the cafe every other Thursday evening.

"The cafe was a huge investment for our little church," Øgreid says. "It is our goal to have the coffee shop revenue pay for itself." The cafe has one full-time employee and three part-timers.

"Cafe b is a quiet place for people to come in and relax," the pastor says. "We are living out the meaning of diakonia by meeting the people where they are."

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*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service.

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