|Brad & Libby, Founders of the SAME Cafe|
In this past Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle (May 6, 2007), I read a wonderful article by Stephanie Simon of the Los Angeles Times, entitled Pay What You Can at the Cafe for Everyone.
It's an article about the SAME Cafe (stands for "So All May Eat"). Libby & Brad Birky run this cafe in Denver, Colorado and anyone is welcome to eat there and pay what they can. If you don't have money, you pitch in and mop the floor or wash dishes.
One of the ideas behind the cafe is welcoming all people to come in and enjoy the cafe experience, regardless of their financial status. Usually, if you want a free lunch, you have to go to a shelter or soup kitchen, and stand in line and get your rationed portion - as if you were in a prison camp or something. At this wonderful cafe, a homeless person can order the food they want to eat, sit down with the paper, talk with friends and enjoy that "cafe-feeling" that many of us take for granted.
And the amazing part, Libby & Brad actually make enough money to pay the rent and buy the groceries! They still have to work day jobs to support themselves, but they are hoping the cafe will grow with time. I was really struck by the last two paragraphs of the article:
Both Birkys grew up religious; Libby was raised Catholic and Brad as Mennonite. They don't belong to any organized religion now - except, maybe, the cafe. "If we didn't have faith in the goodness of humankind, we wouldn't be doing this," Brad says as he pulls out a rolling pin and begins another pizza crust. "This is our church."
Having co-created my own church, I really resonate with the idea of creating "church experiences" that resonate with us. When organized religions no longer feed our needs completely, it is beautiful to create spaces and experiences like the Birkys have done. They found a way to serve their fellow humans that feels truthful and is passionate for them.
When I shared this story with my husband, it reminded him of some of the positive aspects of growing up Mormon. He told me that no one ever goes hungry in the Mormon church. If you can't pay your rent, the community comes together and helps you pay. And you aren't made to feel you are getting a "hand-out." He is very happy to no longer be a Mormon for a variety of reasons, but he does miss that feeling of care in the community.
I am very inspired and hopeful because the Birkys are in the world and doing what they believe in. What kind of church would you like to create?