It is 8 a.m. on a Friday and the Brookside neighborhood is wide awake.
While most are well on their way to beginning the last daily commute of the week to work, the stragglers and a few just gathering to enjoy the day head to a coffee shop for a pick-me-up and a chat.
Among them are the Rev. John Spicer and a group of members from the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The six of them sit around two tables in Bella Napoli’s coffee bar, surrounded by metal racks full of spices and packaged noodles.
They meet here, at 6229 Brookside Blvd., at 8 a.m. on Fridays. They come for the coffee, for the community and they come to pray.
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“We’ve come over here on Ash Wednesday and have administered ashes on people’s foreheads, so that sort of got us thinking, ‘Why can’t you do church in a coffee shop?’,” Spicer said. “This is a good way to ... model, taking the church into the world.”
Spicer has been at St. Andrew’s for nine years, serving as senior pastor the last two, and all the while trying to find a way to engage and benefit the community around him.
A short time after Easter, Spicer and a few others from the church decided to leave the walls of St. Andrew’s for the smell of fresh-ground coffee beans at Bella Napoli. Though they admit the coffee is good, that’s not why they’re there every Friday.
They wanted to offer prayer, understanding or simply discussion on important issues to the community.
This prayer group isn’t just for members of the church, and it’s not even solely for people of faith, Spicer said. The group welcomes anyone and everyone who wants to join.
On this particular morning, the group prayed for the children as the school year was ending. They asked for a safe and productive summer and thanked God for the beautiful weather.
“Jesus’ whole point was about the community, whatever his community would have been,” Spicer said. “It’s all about loving and caring about the people around you.”
For them, it’s not about converting non-believers or forcing their beliefs onto others; Spicer mentioned he’s talked with an atheist during one of their prayer meetings.
“She came, sat down and said ‘I want to know what you’re doing. What is this?’” Spicer said.
They went on to have a “fabulous” conversation about how they each see the world. And for the group members, that’s the point. It’s about opening the door for those discussions.
“I think it’s a much more productive way of discussing what Brookside, Kansas City, east of Troost, west of Troost, whatever are going through,” said Cindy Obenhaus, who is fairly new to the church.
As open as the St. Andrew’s prayer group is to the community, it seems the community is just as open. Bella Napoli owner Jake Imperiale had no problem letting them meet in his restaurant to pray.
“The people from St. Andrew’s come in here all the time for coffee, and they usually hand out ashes on Ash Wednesday, which I think is very cool,” Imperiale said. “One day they just asked if they could do a prayer group here and I said, ‘Sure, do what you want.’”
The members of St. Andrew’s, 6401 Wornall Terrace, really see Brookside as a growing connected community, and are working to help foster that growth and keep the community connected through a common thread — discussion and prayer.
“This is where we are; the church is just down the road,” Spicer said. “It’s sort of our coffee shop; we come here anyhow so it just seemed natural to come pray here.”