A Montgomery County parish is nourishing both soul and body through a café that serves up more than “just coffee and donuts” after Mass.
“We offer egg sandwiches, bacon, sausages, even pancake specials and chipped beef,” said parish staffer Christine Klag, who manages the Fellowship Café at Sacred Heart Parish in Royersford.
Located in the church basement, the weekly café – which usually seats about 70 — is open on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. In addition to standard breakfast fare, the menu includes yogurt parfaits and avocado toast, for an overall selection that’s “cheaper and better than Wawa, as one Sunday regular says,” noted Klag.
Staffed by volunteers, and with prices ranging from $1 to $3 ($6 to $8 for specials prepared by local restauranteur Annamarie Chestnut of Annamarie’s Place), the café is “self-sustaining,” said Klag. “We try to make enough to hold our own.”
The trendy décor is a blend of Starbucks and spirituality, with earth tones, bistro sets, a flat-screen television, Scripture verse murals and religious art. The café, remodeled some six years ago, even has its own logo.
The simple hospitality provides “a way to meet fellow parishioners while sitting with family and enjoying good food,” Klag said.
At the same time, the recipe is also a very intentional one, drawing on the pastoral renewal approach outlined by Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran in their popular book “Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost and Making Church Matter.” Taking a page from the business world and from large evangelical congregations, the authors’ parish, Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland, opened an on-site café to welcome worshipers.
Such strategies are “a way to kind of rejuvenate the life of the church,” said Klag. “You get to know the people around you.”
The Fellowship Café’s “really neat ministry” is also a perfect fit for younger parishioners, she said.
“Some of the kids need service hours, sometimes our honor society kids help – and sometimes parents just think it’s a good idea for their children to assist,” said Klag, a hospitality sector professional.
Under her skillful management, the various tasks are “not hard, per se” and in fact “very joyful,” she added.
“We have lots of dedicated volunteers, some who come for a whole day, and some for just an hour,” she said.
The café also hosts special events, such as a Thanksgiving dinner on the weekend prior to that holiday, Klag said.
Although it closed during COVID, the café reopened in style Sept. 11, when the parish celebrated a Blue Mass for first responders followed by a reception.
With coffee brewing full strength once again, Klag and her team are looking forward to catching up over a cup — or several.
“The best part is just getting to know everybody,” she said. “We’re trying to develop relationships with people, to engage the parishioners and ourselves. And it works on both sides of the counter.”
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