Mira Vista United Church of Christ is a small congregation in the midst of giving birth to a big dream.
In 2005, the congregation sold its large campus on Cutting Blvd., invested the proceeds, and began renting space from Christ Lutheran Church on Ashbury Ave. While “camping” with the Lutherans, the congregation solidified its identity as a community of believers and deepened their spiritual practice together. One previous student has even described Mira Vista as being somewhat “monastic” in their commitments to shared meals, contemplative practice, and serious spiritual inquiry.
As spirit-filled contemplatives, the congregation does a great job of “being” church, but does struggle with how to share this bounty more effectively so as to ensure a sustainable future. Therefore, the congregation called Rev. Dr. Melinda V. McLain in Fall 2014 with the express purpose of discerning and implementing a new, sustainable model of ministry. Since then, McLain and the congregation have come to understand that the congregation’s three passions: food, justice, and the arts could be well-lived out by becoming a café church.
The learning curve has been high, but joyous. In Spring of 2016, the congregation participated in the New Business Law Practicum at U.C. Berkley’s Boalt Hall and learned how to be a non-profit running a business. Over the summer of 2015, a draft business plan for the GOOD table came into being that envisions a coffee shop with pay-what-you-can lunches, co-working space, and a venue for live music.
The plan outlines a community café operating with a triple bottom-line of financial sustainability, social service benefits, and spiritual development. We continue to refine our plan and are now searching for the right real estate, funding for the co-working space development, and the development of a marketing strategy and plan. the GOOD table is also beginning to operate in two “pop-up” forms: pastoral “community office hours” at a coffee shop in Richmond and live music each first Sunday evening at El Cerrito Natural Grocery. These pop-ups help us understand how to do this sort of community ministry, learn from the community what they need and desire, and begin to develop a customer base for the proposed enterprise.
We envision that our longtime partnership with Pacific School of Religion and the GTU will continue to be an integral part of this ministry. Early in the development of the business plan, we determined that we didn’t want to be doing generalized “job training”, a common part of the pay-what-you-can model, but instead we want to primarily hire seminarians from PSR and the GTU to ensure that all of our work is also ministry.
Mira Vista has welcomed PSR students for many, many years and would be happy to have another student with us in 2017-2018 who has a passion for learning what it means to be a church operating as a café and the willingness and unique skills and entrepreneurial personality to help us birth this vision together.
CONTACT: Rev. Dr. Melinda V. McLain, firstname.lastname@example.org
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