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Everyday Joe’s Coffeehouse is anything but run-of-the-mill

Timberline Old Town Church in Fort Collins, Colo., is open seven days a week. But only on Sundays are church services held. The other six days the church operates as a nonprofit coffeehouse called Everyday Joe’s.

“The coffeehouse is an outreach of the church,” explains Darren Fred, 43, pastor of the church and one of about 30 volunteer baristas. “It exists to be an intersection where people of faith and people of no faith can meet.”

Like many coffeehouses, Everyday Joe’s doesn’t just sell coffee; it offers customers an experience. Inside the former service station restrained chatter, the dull clinking of mugs, music and — of course — the aroma of coffee fill the air.

Like beautiful pendants, art from local artists hangs on the brick walls. There’s also an event board brimming with flyers advertising everything from bikes for sale to lectures at the university. Behind the counter volunteer baristas busily go about their chores serving up espressos, grande cups of coffee and even a drink called “The Gorilla” — steamed milk, espresso, banana and chocolate.

The underlying goal of such a place, says Fred, is to put the love of Christ into action by serving the community.

It seems to work.

On a recent Sunday, Jenny Mann explains how her visits to Everyday Joe’s played a part in transforming her view of God, the church and followers of Christ.

“I didn’t grow up going to church,” says Mann, 28. “But while I was pursuing a master’s degree at CSU [Colorado State University] I got to know one of the baristas here who happened to be the pastor.

“I was never a person who had a community I belonged to, but church became a family outside of my family,” she continues. “It’s nice to go somewhere each week where people stop and say hi and ask how things are going in your world.”

The same thing happened for Danny Wilson, a student at CSU.

“I came through those doors as an outspoken atheist four years ago,” he says, pointing toward the entrance. “Now I’m leading worship.”

Fred says the church — a satellite of nearby Timberline Church (pastored by Dary Northrop) — was initially led by a pastor who had a couple of things in mind.

“He wanted it to look like an art gallery, sound like a rock concert, feel like an opera and smell like a coffeehouse,” he says.

Mann likes the vibe and says it draws unchurched people.

“It’s not as harsh here,” says Mann, who admits that she once vowed never to become a follower of Christ. “This is a great way for people to get to know the church without a lot of judgment.”

As Fred speaks to his congregation he keeps the tone conversational. At one point he admits he doesn’t have everything about God and faith figured out. As he grapples with his questions he elicits input from the crowd.

“It’s been a dream of mine to have a dialog-driven church,” he says after the service. “Church should be a place where people feel safe asking tough questions.”

A quick look at the congregation reveals an eclectic bunch. There are cowboys, college students with bedhead, former homeless people and young couples who look as if they just stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalog.

Many came initially for the coffee, free Wi-Fi and Friday night concerts only to stumble unexpectedly onto something much greater.

“The power of this place is that it puts people in a room together that normally wouldn’t be in a room together,” says Fred.

But doing so, he admits, has posed some interesting challenges.

One day, as Fred wrote his Sunday sermon, he noticed that a nearby patron was a transgender person. At first Fred felt conflicted, but then he had an epiphany.

“That’s when the power of this intersection we created exploded in my mind,” he says. “Yes, the transgender person, the gay hairdresser and unchurched college kids who come in every day know who we are. In time we’re able to build trust, and eventually people open up to the gospel.”

And that’s reason enough to serve more coffee.

— Kirk Noonan

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