Written by: Shannon Furzer, Community Life Coordinator, Bethel Church
Bethel Church is a welcoming church, yet we believe there is a difference between being welcomed and feeling welcome. Sometimes we focus more on inviting people to join us (at church on a Sunday, for example) without first establishing trust and a relationship so that people can truly know they are welcome.
In the fall of 2019, a group from our church was sitting at the Lawn & Garden tractor pull at the annual Acton Fall Fair. A large majority of our congregational members participate in this annual fair and in this particular event. On this night, it happened to be very cold and some of us noticed there was no vendor in the midway at the fair that sold hot drinks.
It was then that we saw an opportunity! We began to wonder, ‘could our church rent space and set up a booth to sell coffee, tea, and hot chocolate?’ More than that, we began to consider how we could move towards our community – to be present, make connections, and establish relationships – instead of waiting for them to come to us.
Then the idea struck us – a coffee trailer! It was accessible and something that we could take wherever and whenever there was opportunity.
While discussing this idea, we identified a few major hurdles: the need for an inexpensive trailer and restaurant grade equipment. The timing was perfect to look for a trailer as it was the end of the summer and camping season. In October 2019, we managed to purchase a small 1973 Scamper trailer with the intention of converting it into a mobile coffee shop that could be present at local community events. We made the decision to not give away free coffee or refreshments but rather sell it at low/reasonable cost so that the coffee trailer was not a burden for the church and this new ‘ministry’ could be sustainable.
A month later, our coffee trailer made its debut to the Acton community in the annual Santa Claus Parade as our church’s float – AS IS. We wrapped it like a present with a huge red bow and a very large gift tag that said: “To Acton – love, Bethel Church”. We wanted to create some curiosity and excitement about what was to come!
Our goal was to have the coffee trailer ready to go out in our community in the spring of 2020. We created a small group of skilled church members to work on the conversion of the trailer and our first meeting was to gut the trailer. Who knew that would be so much fun! But then… we all know what happened next. COVID derailed our plans and we spent the next two years doing all the conversions, all while abiding by the rules of social distancing and dealing with supply shortages for the materials needed. While the COVID limitations and restrictions were frustrating, what we saw during the pandemic was an increased need for kindness and simple social interaction and that kept us motivated to keep going and wait for restrictions to lift. In June of 2022, we officially passed our electrical inspection and the Halton Region Health Inspection. The conversion was complete!
We asked our congregation for name suggestions for our new coffee trailer. There were many wonderful names but in the end we went with “The Coffee Trailer”. We had always referred to it as just that so why name it something different?!
Our first event was the Acton Leathertown Festival on Sunday, August 14, 2022, and we offered two kinds of coffee and tea. Soon we had people wanting to leave donations (on top of what we were charging!) so we made a donation jar. The donated money is used to purchase cups of coffee for the residents of our local mental health group homes when they come to the coffee trailer. It was a great afternoon with lots of conversation over a great cup of coffee at a low price.
Our next big event was the annual Acton Fall Fair! This was a 3-day event so we needed more volunteers to make this happen. My husband and I were at the fair at 6:30am on the Saturday morning as the farmers and Fair board members wanted coffee early to start their day. We also decided to add bottled water to our menu and we purchased a tablet and a Square mobile point of sale so that our customers could use cash or debit. We had 35 volunteers – seniors, youth, and other congregational members – serve over 400 cups of coffee and tea and 200 bottles of water that weekend. It was a true intergenerational experience! Our presence sparked many thoughtful conversations, very positive feedback, and words of gratitude.
We are still in the early stages of this ministry but our experience so far has shown us that we are on the right path and we are excited to see what doors God will open.
To finish the season, we were invited to sell coffee at the Electric Car Show in late September where we added hot chocolate to our menu. Being invited to this event was very reassuring for our team. We are still in the early stages of this ministry but our experience so far has shown us that we are on the right path and we are excited to see what doors God will open.
Since our coffee trailer has running water, we officially closed it at the end of October. Yet, at Christmas we could still use the trailer as a “hub” to serve free hot chocolate at our Acton Santa Claus parade and at the outdoor Christmas community event at our church. For these ‘off season’ events, we can make the hot chocolate in the church and serve it from an insulated hot beverage dispenser. A little cold weather isn’t going to stop us!
This entire experience has been a huge blessing to our church, and also our community, from start to finish. We believe our little coffee trailer will help our church continue to “Shine Light and Show Love” in our community.
Bethel CRC in Acton has worked intentionally over the past years to be an integral part of their local community. “As part of a visioning process in 2020,” shared Barbara Kerkof, Bethel’s chair of deacons, “one of the things our church identified as crucial was to partner with existing organizations in the community; not to take over, but work alongside them to carry out kingdom work.”
While the church is currently without a pastor, their church continues to be curious and creative in their ministries. The deacons organize a community clean-up twice a year and their church has participated in a ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ event helping kids find something great to wear to prom, graduation, or any fancy outing they wish!
If you are interested in more information about Bethel’s coffee trailer, contact Shannon Furzer at Bethel Church at (519) 853-2121 x5.
What Opportunities are in YOUR community?
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