Awakenings, a new Palmyra-based coffee shop opening Tuesday, Sept. 8, has a dual purpose: to nourish the body and the soul.
“We want people to awaken to the idea that the church just isn’t here to sustain itself, that it is here to serve the community,” says Pastor Jim Anderman, Palmyra First United Methodist Church, located at Birch and Green streets. “We think that having a relationship with the Lord is important for your own general health and welfare. We also want to awaken people to the necessity of being with others and helping the community. So, yeah, there’s a lot of subtlety behind the name.”
Anderman said the idea to give people a free cup of joe or tea from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays began to percolate about a year ago.
“It really got started with a group of folks who have a vision for the church and how we can impact the community,” Anderman said. “We decided that something like that, where there’s no pressure, just an opportunity to get to know people, would be something worth trying.”
The decision to open in September of 2020 was planned long before there was a pandemic.
“We had decided to time this in conjunction with the timing of the opening of our pre-school in the fall,” Anderman said. “So that parents who are dropping kids off and so that people in the neighborhood could stop by, have some good coffee and conversation, and then be on their way.”
The onset of the pandemic in mid-March led to some moments of indecision, Anderman noted, and required church members to become creative during the planning and implementation phase.
”Can we really do this or do we put everything on hold?” Anderman said. “But it was finally like, ‘No, we have no idea how long [the pandemic] is going to last.’ So we decided to do it as safe as we can, move forward and see what happens. We originally decided to do this in our Fellowship Hall but now will hold it at our outdoor pavilion.”
The pandemic is giving church members the opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade, or, in this case, coffee beans into a steaming cup of coffee. One of the unfortunate impacts from the onset of the virus is the inability for people to socialize like they did in the past. This endeavor will help change that paradigm.
“I am definitely one that believes that all things work together for those who love the Lord,” Anderman said. “While this whole pandemic has presented all kinds of issues, it has also presented all kinds of opportunities for the church.”
Besides creating online services that now reach more people, including some who live in other states, the church’s coffee shop will give locals a chance to be social at a safe distance. Anderman said parents dropping off their children for preschool can interact with one another in a comfortable and safe environment instead of in the hallways of the preschool.
Anderman agreed with the question asking if the decision to open the coffee shop could be an example of the Lord working in mysterious ways.
“We could not have imagined what’s happening now when we started this idea,” Anderman said. “But it seems to be more important now than ever. I think it really is one of those cases where we could not have foreseen this but it has morphed into something that is probably needed more than what we were originally thinking.”
Besides the two volunteers who will serve hot beverages, others will be on hand to chat with those who wish to engage in conversation.
“Church folks will be there for people who want to have a conversation or if they want to sit and read the paper or open their phone and read yesterday’s LebTown, since it will be too early for that day’s edition, they can do whatever works for them. We just want to create a safe place for people to be. You can engage if you want to or if you want to sit in isolation, then that’s okay, too.”
Awakenings will remain outdoors as long as the weather permits and then move into the church’s Fellowship Hall, where Anderman said there’s plenty of space to practice safe physical distancing while having that first fresh brew of the morning.
While the physical site may move indoors as summer morphs into fall, the purpose of the coffee gathering will remain unchanged.
“We need to keep everyone as protected as we can from the virus,” Anderman said, “but we weren’t meant to be isolated. People need to know that there is somebody out there who cares, that there’s somebody that you can talk to.”
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