Meet the Good table

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 together how to embody the love of God. Right here. Right now.

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 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 coffee shop, gathering space for spiritual celebrations, 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.  the Good table is currently operating in two “pop-up” forms: pastoral “community office hours” at a coffee shop in Richmond and we are now co-hosting community events at our new property in El Sobrante. 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.










Finding a Property and Planting Justice

In 2017, we began earnestly looking for real estate and after looking at a variety of possible locations, we began to wonder if we had enough capital and energy to enact this ambitious vision. But at every point when it seemed we would have to go back to the drawing board and rethink everything, something would happen that would move us forward again.


 After over a year of seeking a good real estate fit, we came to the conclusion that we are priced out of the El Cerrito/Richmond market along San Pablo Avenue. We also knew we needed more volunteers and human capacity to create this business. 


At this point we became aware of a property that might work for our vision in El Sobrante, a location farther away, but actually closer to where many members live. We made an offer to the owner in September of 2018 and it was unsuccessful, but the owner introduced us to a potential non-profit partner, Planting Justice, an organization that was also interested in the property.

 

Planting Justice is a millennial-led organization that has been combining environmental stewardship with workforce development for nearly 10 years. Like Delancey Street, they are also experts in developing a diversified funding model to achieve their goals and they currently operate a landscaping business and nursery. The organization has recently been featured in the New York Times with the headline: “Kale not Jail” and was named a California non-profit of the year in 2018. But most importantly, we have felt a great synergy with the leaders of Planting Justice and their mission.


We now co-own an LLC with Planting Justice and we have purchased 5166 Sobrante Avenue, the site of the former Adachi nursery in El Sobrante! The property needs a lot of work, but we hope to open in early 2020!


This joint venture will result in a new home for our church and community gathering space; a coffeeshop and local food and craft marketplace; offices for both organizations; and an organic tree and plant nursery and farm store. In the meantime, we will be holding regular community events while we’re in construction to gather and serve the El Sobrante area.


As a church, we feel confident that a move to El Sobrante constitutes going into a “hole in the map”, a place where there aren’t any other UCC church offerings and this type of enterprise is sorely needed and desired. Already we are meeting new friends interested in our sort of spiritual offerings such as interfaith meditation, pay-what-you-can yoga, and open-hearted eclectic music, prayer, and preaching that is always followed by a shared meal.