Innovative Ministry Serves Community, Coffee and Fair Trade Goods
Four churches come together to create "third place" for fellowship and faith at The Bridge.
The Bridge is community, coffee house and fair trade market combined in a corner location in New Town, St. Charles. I would describe it as a place to tangibly live out faith values and principles while living out your life.
Over dinner out with their spouses, the Rev. Stephanie Doeschot, a minister of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Rev. Jim Erdman, a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), shared their separate visions of a new outreach ministry: both spoke of starting a collaborative ministry located in New Town.
The Bridge started as a small kiosk selling fair trade products, such as coffee and artisan handicrafts. Fairly traded goods support new markets, favorable working conditions, and fair prices especially in areas at a disadvantage with the regular manufacturing and marketing system. More information is available at the Fair Trade Federation website.
The Bridge is a result of much prayer, planning and creative thinking by members of outreach teams from four St. Charles County churches with support by the two church denominations. Three of the four churches are from the ELCA: Christ the King, Hope and Living Lord; Christ’s Church is RCA.
This new ministry planting has been fruitful and The Bridge has moved from a kiosk to a corner café.
It’s a coffee house and a fair trade market, with goods and goodies for sale made locally and globally. It’s also a community place.
The Bridge has been open in its current New Town location not quite two years. Musicians offer live music on Friday evenings from 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. You can come and sit and browse the web with your lap top, or kick-back with friends. It’s not home, work or school, but it’s that other place, a place you want to be.
The planning partners of The Bridge hope that it is a ‘third-place’ ministry. Doeschot, the mission developer, described these ‘third-place’ locations by referring to the TV show “Cheers,” where she said “everybody goes and its song told us ‘everybody knows your name’.”
The Bridge is not a bar, but it has baristas who serve up hot coffee or lattes as you like them, or other hot or cold drinks. This is a collaborative ministry, with a few paid baristas, but many volunteers come from the four churches and are needed, Doeschot stated, to keep this “consistent witness to the world” operating.
The witness is one of cooperation, not competition. The foundational faith principles of The Bridge come from the Bible, the Book of Micah 6:8, where the prophet Micah says to the people that God doesn’t require elaborate offerings but rather the offerings of “doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.”
Doeschot indicated a desire for The Bridge to be a “regional presence of fair trade” and promoting awareness and education of fair trade practices as well as the selling of the products themselves. The Bridge serves fair trade coffee to its customers from Goshen Coffee Company, Edwardsville, IL.
One of the items for sale Doeschot showed me is bottled olive oil made from a manufacturing cooperative of Jewish and Arab women. I pray for peace in the Middle East; when I purchase this product, I support even in a small way an effort to bring about that peace. It’s an action upon a faith statement while living out my life.
It’s something I really can do.
Another way The Bridge provides an opportunity to live out the Micah 6:8 principles is in the tip jar.
The tip jar is large and it is displayed next to a good size sign that explains that 50 percent of all tips is given to a selected charity that changes monthly or when a giving goal is reached. Sitting by the tip jar is a description of the charity and who or what it helps. A tip jar is not new; what The Bridge has decided to do with it is.
If you have purchased a cup of coffee, put money in the tip jar, perhaps bought one of the locally made “Sweet Success” cookies for an afternoon snack or paid for one of the many hand-crafted items for sale, you have been an active part of the ministry of The Bridge.
And, if you have bought an iced mocha latte and sat outside at the café tables and chatted with friends, you have been an active participant in the ministry of The Bridge.
I like this place. It has a purpose beyond the surface. If you don’t know that before you walk in, you know it before the foam of the skim milk has settled on top of your latte.