Warmth, welcome and shared gifts characterize Our Community Cup, a unique coffeehouse, supper club and music venue which just marked its first anniversary of operation at Chambers Memorial Presbyterian Church in Rutledge.
Who is doing the welcoming? The congregation of Chambers Memorial, the trustees of the New Avenue Foundation, and community families and volunteers. Pastor Pam McShane said church leadership started by asking “How do we form a community? We wanted an opportunity to reach new people and to minister in different ways.”
Enter Jim Wurster, a founder of the New Avenue Foundation, which advocates for people with autism and developmental disabilities. Jim and Pam are neighbors near Princeton Presbyterian Church in Springfield, where Pam also serves as pastor, and where Jim and his wife Maria live with their 27-year old autistic daughter.
“We’ve discussed various programs a church might host, and Pam thought the Chambers church would embrace this,” Jim says. “That church has been looking to build up the congregation, and to engage people who are sometimes regarded as invisible — people with learning disabilities, autism, blindness…” and other conditions that may limit their participation in community activities.
Wurster says, “Parents are always looking for things to do with their adult children who have disabilities, and it’s especially good if those activities don’t cost much.”
What is shared? Meals, music, and fellowship. Virtually every Friday, a group of volunteers serves dinner at 6 p.m. in the basement of the church at 2 Sylvan Avenue in Rutledge. Conversation and informal activities usually continue through 7 p.m., when an opening performer takes the stage. The featured act comes on at 7:30 p.m. for a one-hour set.
The music is often gentle acoustic fare, provided by some of the best known artists in Delaware County and beyond. “It’s a great, laid-back environment,” said Jim Wurster. “The performers really engage the audience.”
“Our Community Cup is a great place to play,” said Ingrid Rosenback, one half of the duo Last Chance. “What an audience! We’ve played there three times. They’re attentive to the songs, and wildly enthusiastic in their applause.”
What is the source of the warmth? The inclusion of community members who aren’t typically part of part of the music scene – or the church scene. Pastor McShane said “It seems like an area where churches haven’t always lifted up persons with disabilities, especially adults. Our focus is on those young adults,” who may feel marginalized in other settings.
The Chambers church’s good works have been recognized by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, which awarded Chambers a grant to help fund operations for the second year of Our Community Cup. Pastor McShane said the church’s governing body originally approved the coffeehouse as a one-year experiment. “After that year, we know the model works. And we were fortunate to get this generous grant, which is so important — A, for the support; B, for the affirmation.”
The grant was especially appropriate and welcome since the coffeehouse operates on the gift economy — guests are asked to consider what the evening is worth to them, and contribute what they can. Because seating is limited to 50 guests, online reservations are recommended; Paypal or paper check payments are requested at the time of RSVP. Note that the coffeehouse is located in a basement not served by wheelchair ramps.
Our Community Cup is located at Chambers Memorial Presbyterian Church. This Friday, March 18, the coffeehouse will host The Nerve, from Newtown Square. After a week off for Good Friday, the Community Cup returns on April 1 with singer-songwriter Keith Shaw from New Jersey. Singer-songwriter Diana Neri plays on April 8. A full schedule, reservations and other information is at ourcommunitycup.com.