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Bridget Perron talked with Elizabeth Wildman as parishioners gathered after Mass for fellowship and Breviary Coffee at Epiphany of Our Lord in St. Louis on Aug. 4. The parish provides coffee and a place for fellowship after 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sundays.
Bridget Perron talked with Elizabeth Wildman as parishioners gathered after Mass for fellowship and Breviary Coffee at Epiphany of Our Lord in St. Louis on Aug. 4. The parish provides coffee and a place for fellowship after 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sundays.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

A parish that sips together …

Epiphany’s blend of coffee is a hit for community-building

Epiphany of Our Lord parishioners exited church at midday on a hot Sunday in July. Instead of heading straight to their air-conditioned cars, they gathered in a mostly shaded patio.

Serving as baristas, Brian and Andra Newsham poured coffee — the parish’s own brand of a fair-trade blend with hints of brown sugar. 

Father Michael Rennier, center, pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, watched as a batch of his Breviary Coffee cooled after exiting the roaster at First Crack Coffee July 11. First Crack founder, Bryndon Bay, Left, and Epiphany Parish coffee minister Brian Newsham operated the machine.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Michael Villhard sipped cup of and reflected on the weekly gathering. “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t interact with the younger adults of the parish,” he said. “It gets them involved. Father Michael is good at bringing the young families together.”

The post-Mass coffee gathering, led by the pastor and other young adults, is one way the parish in the Lindenwood Park neighborhood of south St. Louis builds community. The goal is to provide a setting for more people to interact after Mass, Brian said.

“It helps people to communicate rather than going into Mass and then leaving” immediately afterward, Brian said, adding that the coffee gathering’s popularity led to a year-round enterprise instead of just during milder-weather months.

He’s been a parishioner 10 years and at first didn’t know many people. But, he said, “this helped me get to know the people in the community and parish.”

Brian enjoys seeing newcomers when they wander over to the coffee pot, wondering what it’s all about and not realizing it’s a free cup of coffee. “It’s a really good thing for everybody, really unique,” he said.

Andra Newsham said it helped her get to know people after she and Brian were married three and a half years ago. “It gets the generations together,” Andra said.

The Newshams grind and brew the coffee before Mass. “Once we hit brew, we go into Mass and then when we come out the big silver pot is ready,” Brian said.

Brewing and serving the coffee has led to other volunteer opportunities. Andra, for example, helped with vacation Bible school, which she learned about when talking with parishioners after Mass, over coffee. A Christmas program with donations going for a nearby assisted-living facility also grew out of a conversation over coffee.

Father Michael Rennier set up breviary Coffee as part of a coffee ministry at Epiphany Parish.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston

When it started in 2017, a few parishioners and Father Michael Rennier started hand-roasting coffee in the convection oven in the gym kitchen. Soon afterward they began roasting at First Crack, which has a proper coffee roasting machine. They learned to get the perfect roast for their bean, which has greatly improved the quality of our coffee. hand-roasted coffee beans at the parish . As interest in the parish-roasted beans grew, they’ve moved off-site, with Father Rennier usually handling the duties by himself during the daytime when the volunteers are at work.

In July, the Newshams and five other young adults accompanied Father Rennier to First Crack Coffee to roast Breviary Coffee, the house brand served after Mass and sold for $7 a bag. Profits are go to the parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference.

Chris Perron said, “We enjoy spending time with people and community-building.”

His wife, Bridget, added that “a great way to start a conversation is to enjoy a cup of coffee and get to know everyone, whether they’re your age group or not.”

Edward McCoy said that by purchasing a package of Breviary Coffee, “from the get-go when you wake up in the morning the Church is a part of your life, and you give back to those in need.”

Another volunteer, Bryan Kujawa, said he discovered that “Father Michael is fun to drink coffee with” and engage in conversation. Kujawa noted that drinking coffee is usually a daily ritual, so what Epiphany Parish does is make a connection with that ritual and God.

>> Breviary Coffee

The coffee is sold after Mass at Epiphany Church, 6596 Smiley Ave. in St. Louis, and at City Greens Market, a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide access to fresh, quality and affordable produce at cost in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood while supporting local farmers.

Profits are funneled back to City Greens and for food purchased there which is given to families served by Epiphany Parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference food pantry. The funds also pay for the coffee hour after 1o:30 Mass on Sundays at Epiphany.

The name is derived from the liturgical book containing the psalms, readings, prayers etc., of the Divine Office of the Church.

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