Folks attending Cornerstone Bible Church really do have a chance to wake up and smell the coffee.
That’s because their Sunday services take place at Milady Coffeehouse.
Eventually, the pastor and congregation hope to find a permanent location.
But things have been flowing smoothly in the downtown Fremont locale.
“I think it’s going pretty well,” said the Rev. Jeff Schneider, the church’s minister. “There’s a lot of really exciting things happening.”
Between 30 and 50 people gather in the coffeehouse’s main area. The worship service runs from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
“We use a digital format for our music and that seems to be the right thing for us right now,” Schneider said.
This Sunday, Cornerstone’s working with Grace Presbyterian Church and Milady for a community worship gathering.
The public is invited to the event, which begins with pancakes served at 9 a.m. and the worship service at 10 a.m. Oct. 13 in a tent in the parking lot south of the coffeehouse.
Cornerstone is affiliated with the Berean fellowship of churches.
Schneider, an ordained minister with the fellowship, and his wife, Suzanne, came to Fremont in 2016.
“We do feel like we were called here,” the pastor said. “The church was a bit of a sinking ship, so to speak, and the original group of Cornerstone members asked us to come help them rescue this sinking ship.”
The church sold its building a couple years ago.
“It needed so much work and there was a lot of history with the building that we wanted to get away from to give us a sense of a fresh start,” he said.
The building was sold to another congregation.
“From what I know, the church has done really well and they’ve been able to fix up the building and so we really see that as an answer to prayer,” he said.
Cornerstone relocated, but two Easters ago found itself needing another place to worship. Glen Ellis, who owns Milady and is a friend of Schneider’s, offered the coffeehouse as a place to meet.
“And we’ve been here ever since,” Schneider said.
The pastor has been pleased to see spiritual growth among attendees.
“I think there’s a lot of honest spiritual renewal in the folks who are attending Cornerstone,” he said. “I’ve seen them get excited about the things of God and his people. We have seen a lot of lives changed.”
Schneider has seen restored relationships and attendees with a greater sense of hope and encouragement.
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The church would like to offer Sunday school and other children’s ministry type of things – something it isn’t able to provide right now.
That said, there are advantages to having church in a coffee shop.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “We’re doing what’s normally done in a private setting in a very public area.”
On any given Sunday, as many as a dozen people will be scattered throughout the coffeehouse.
Although they haven’t come for church, they can’t help but participate in some manner – because they’re hearing church members sing and Schneider preach and are observing what’s happening in a church setting.
“There’s been a number of occasions where I’ve noticed people peeking around the corner to see what’s going on — who end up sticking around and in some way, participating,” he said.
One woman, who sat on the other side of a wall in the building, listened for a number of weeks before deciding be part of the fellowship.
“It is kind of a safe environment for people to check us out,” he said. “They can easily come and sit wherever they want and not feel like they’re going to the church, but just coming for coffee and observe from a safe distance.”
He’s heard positive comments.
“Our folks are real excited to be here, incredibly thankful for Glen and Nancy and their generosity,” he said.
There have been challenges.
“You have to work through some of the distractions — people talking and normal coffeehouse-type sounds going on in the background,” he said.
But he’s glad for people who patronize the business.
He’s also been very pleased to see church attendees who’ve honestly encountered the grace of God.
“We have a lot of people who’ve made some big mistakes in their lives and struggled with the idea of God being able to forgive them,” he said. “Being part of this community, they’ve learned a great deal about God’s generosity and compassion toward us – and you can see it in their lives, with the freedom from guilt and shame, from having to hide. We’re a very open community. There’s not a lot of pretense here at all.”
Schneider appreciates the healthy relationship the congregation has with Grace Presbyterian Church, situated next door.
“They’ve been incredibly welcoming to us,” he said.
For example, the church lets Schneider use an office in their building.
“I have an office right next door to the Rev. Kyle McClellan,”
Schneider said. “He and I are really good friends. We talk daily and encourage each other regularly. I think that’s pretty unique.”
Schneider looks toward the future.
“As glad as we are to be here, we don’t think of Milady as our permanent location,” he said. “We’re hoping and praying for an opportunity to get into a space of our own. But with as much moving and transition as the church has gone through, we want to take our time with that.”