By Emily Hagedorn
LATONIA - While the Starbucks coffee is conventional, the cafe it's served in is anything but.
It's Jesus with a cup o' Joe.
The Latonia Baptist Church is resurrecting its Refuge Cafe on Sunday nights.
Starting Jan. 4, the church's fellowship hall, at 38th and Church streets in Covington, will be filled with Christian rock music, poems and the occasional round of "stump the ministers," in which attendants can interrogate their church leaders on everything from Bible trivia to life's questions.
Reservations are not necessary, admission is free and free parking is available in the church's lot on 38th Street.
And the catch: No sermon.
It's different - and it's intended to be that way.
"We do worship on Sunday morning - this is entertainment," said Randy Umstead, the church's minister of music. "The concept was it was a refuge for people to come to."
It's a way for people to become acquainted with the church without the pressure of coming to a Sunday service, Umstead said.
When the church did a test run in November, between 40 and 70 people came each time, he said.
Two to three people sat at the round bistro tables as church volunteers served the free Starbucks coffee and pastries.
"The goal is one-on-one evangelism," Umstead said.
Introducing alternatives to the normal Sunday worship has been an aim of many churches recently, said Rick Robbins, the executive director of the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association.
"We're simply responding to the culture," Robbins said. "I think churches are increasing their attempts to relate to the community."
The cafe especially reaches out to youth, Umstead said.
The attempt to pull younger people into churches has been a trend that started in the 1970s, said Pete Coleman, associate pastor/students with Florence Baptist Church.
"It gives them the same message that was given at the pulpit, communicated in a different way," Coleman said.
While in the past, he's had to persuade people to come to services like Sunday worship, the Refuge Cafe needs no pep talk, said Casey Cockerham, Latonia's youth minister.
"I kind of view it as an easy doorway into the church," Cockerham said.
"I don't think you have to give the big sales pitch."
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