The young couple appears to live out of their car. He says, “I could really go for a cup of coffee.” She responds, “You just have to have a little faith.” A moment later they see a sign inviting them for a free cup of coffee and a prayer.
Another woman comes for coffee and connects with one of the pastors about her incarcerated son. Yet another woman stops and says, “I’m not really religious, but every time I pass you guys I say a prayer.”
Members and pastors from Bethel Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Rochester, Minn., stand near the street every Wednesday morning to offer free coffee and prayers to passing motorists and pedestrians.
Andrew Nelson, one of the pastors at Bethel, says that part of their “coffee and a prayer” ministry is to include all neighbors.
“We don’t insist that you have a particular way of praying or even that you pray at all,” Andrew says, but all who stop or drive by receive a prayer, even if it is not spoken.
Across town another ELCA congregation reaches out with hot beverages. Members of People of Hope Lutheran Church gather one cold, winter night to distribute hot chocolate to folks in the downtown area.
The recipients are people who spend their days and nights caring for others at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. Activities like distributing hot chocolate and offering turkey sandwich lunches to people working on Thanksgiving Day have been ways to let people in the community know that others are thinking of them.
“People absolutely love that we’re trying to figure out new ways to reach into the community and get to know our neighbors,” say Dan Doerring, pastor of People of Hope.
Dan says the creative and radical outreach is not necessarily done with the idea of bringing people through the doors of the church, “but just to be the presence of Christ in the larger community.”