By Elizabeth Richards
The South Windham Community Church and Center is working to build community through their First Friday Coffee House ministry. On the first Friday of every month, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the church basement is transformed into a coffee house atmosphere with live music, open mic, and light refreshments.
First Friday Coffee House organizers Sharon and Charlie Bickford initiated the event after attending a similar ministry at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Portland. After seeing how successful that event was, Sharon said, they thought they could do something similar, with some modifications, in their own neighborhood. “It is a way we can reach out to others in our community and seek to extend Christian hospitality using our hands and feet and hearts to embody the love of Jesus,” Sharon said.
The event is family friendly, with a casual relaxed atmosphere. “We’re not preaching anything at this coffee house,” Sharon said. “We’re just inviting people to come in.” She added that if people come with a need or concern, the church is certainly willing to try and help. And if people are looking for prayers, they simply need to ask. “We’re not pushing that as an agenda. We just want to make them feel welcome, and for us to get to know them and them to get to know us,” she said.
Charlie, who is an associate pastor at the church, said they were thrilled when one of the attendees last month said, “I feel there’s a lot of love in this room.” That is exactly what they are trying to convey, he said.
Another reason for doing the coffee house is that they believe the church should be busy all week, Charlie said. “It is the center of that community,” he said. “We’d like to see our church be used by the community.”
The First Friday Coffee House debuted in November, and each month has welcomed between 30-35 people. There is room for the event to grow to double the size it is now, the Bickfords said.
Each month, the Bickfords line up a few musicians willing to donate their time to play at the coffeehouse. The music can be faith based, but it doesn’t have to be. “There’s a lot of secular music that is positive and uplifting, and we welcome that,” Sharon said. She added, “Music, I think, speaks to people’s hearts sometimes when words don’t.”
There is also an open mic, so if performers want to just come and perform, they are welcome to do so, provided there is enough time, Sharon said.
The Bickfords do the organizing and set up of each First Friday Coffee House, with the help of other volunteers. They are hoping to teach others how to set up, in case they are not able to be there. “We want it to be a ministry of the church, not our ministry,” Sharon said.
There is no admission charge to attend First Friday Coffee House. “As we share with the community, the community also shares with us,” Charlie said. “So, we get to minister on a lot of levels. It’s a unique opportunity for us to see the community in a different light.”
“And for them to see us in a different light,” Sharon added.
“In this day of challenges to the small, local churches we hope to provide a warm gathering place where we can get to know each other and build community,” she said.
The next First Friday Coffee House is on March 6th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The church is located at 31 Main Street in the village of South Windham. All are welcome. For more information, call Charlie at 207-329-3483.