As a community, we have become increasingly less interested in erudite theological musings about the nature of God and instead have come to believe that following Jesus might be as simple as doing more of what he did such as: feeding, healing, blessing, loving, and serving. In this way, instead of dreaming about the realm of God in some far away heaven, we might learn to embody the love of God right here. Right now.
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 right here and now, 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.