Church in a Coffee Shop
That’s how we began. Susannah Davis and Susan Anderson purchased the local coffee shop in the Kirkwood Community, renamed it Gathering Grounds and began to build community one cup of coffee at a time. It isn’t the smells of bread and wine—incense or candles that bring our crowd to worship—it is the scent of GOOD coffee-brewed-poured-tasted and shared! And from our roots at Gathering Grounds, we have continued to Grow-Gather-Gain-Give!
In early 2007, Susannah received Privilege of Call in the United Church of Christ. Part of the mission of the coffee shop was about a much larger vision and vocation. Out of the coffee shop, we began to gather a worshiping and serving community. Our first worship service was held on Christmas Eve 2006—what a beautiful celebration it was, 52 people crammed into the coffee shop. We drank coffee, sang together, and shared the Christmas story by candlelight. It was a beginning.
In 2007, we began monthly worship in the coffee house at 5:00 p.m. every third Sunday. We averaged about 25 people at each gathering. In 2008 we began worshiping together every Sunday and by the spring, we were growing out of the coffee shop. In the summer of 2008 we moved into the Kirkwood Community Center in Bessie Branham Park, and while it was great to be in the middle of the neighborhood, the space was too small by the end of the year.
In 2009 we began worshiping in “The Old Kirkwood Library,” a private residence with a huge front room (the library) rented out for event space. We spent a year here—growing, gaining, giving, serving, and averaging about 60-70 people each Sunday.
Our First Very Own Space
The Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2009, we moved into our very own space—a store front on Hosea Williams Drive—what a glorious day it was! In our time in that particular space, we grew to an average worshiping community of 90-100 folks. We have a Saturday Soup Ministry, Wednesday morning prayer time, monthly outreach opportunities and worship every Sunday that is authentic and faithful.
Our Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ has been an incredible partner and mentor in and throughout our entire process of beginning, becoming and belonging. The Reverends Tim Downs and Cameron Trimble have provided amazing leadership, support and encouragement from the very beginning of this vision. Also many congregations and individuals throughout the United Church of Christ have offered prayers, love and tremendous encouragement in our endeavors. What a blessing it is to be a part of this denomination—claimed by the UCC!
Serving Our Community
KUCC made a commitment early on to be a community of faith that gathers to Worship-Love-Serve and we have lived that out in a variety of ways over our years together. We partner with a local organization, Neighbor in Need, to work with seniors in our neighborhood on housing issues and general maintenance. We participate in workdays that are lead by our local communities. We share in an annual celebration of the Blessing of Animals inviting ALL creatures to participate. KUCC leads an Easter Sunrise Worship Celebration in our local park where ALL are welcomed. We are proud to offer a Soup Saturday ministry, helping to feed, clothe and create relationships with the poor in our community.
Kirkwood UCC offers many and varied opportunities for spiritual growth and formation including weekly worship and intentional children’s time. Early morning Wednesday worship and Holy Communion are shared every week. Weekly Bible study, justice ministries, prayer groups, discussion groups and other small gatherings exist to build up our community of faith. In our life together at KUCC, we have also made a commitment to serve people who feel called into ordained ministry and to walk with them through this process. We typically have between 6 and 8 “Members in Discernment” within our local church, and have — in conjunction with the United Church of Christ — ordained nine persons into ministry.
Our membership is mostly made up from folks living in Kirkwood, Eastlake, Oakhurst, Grant Park, Avondale Estates and Decatur. However, we have members scattered through the city. Together, we have also grown spiritually — faithfully. Some of our folks are faithful church goers who have been invested in a church their entire lives; others are coming back to church after a long absence, and some people are coming to church for the very first time.
Our New Home
In 2015 — just eight years into the life of our congregation — we embarked on a Capital Campaign to purchase a new, permanent home in the Kirkwood neighborhood. In 2016 we purchased property at 100 Rogers Street, constructing a $1.2 million new sanctuary that opened in May 2017 while using the current house as our new “ChurchHouse” for offices. We hope and pray our new home will continue to be a place of outreach to and for our neighborhood and place where God will continue to call us into community and ministry for many years ahead.
This KUCC community — from the very beginning — has been about many heads and hearts and hands sharing in the ministry of our church and life together, serving and inviting and welcoming others into God’s amazing and extravagant love. We are deeply grateful for the United Church of Christ and the opportunity to be a part of a denomination whose witness, words, actions and belief system lead us into faithful and authentic relationships with God, with each other, our community and our world!