The iconic Knox United in the heart of downtown Calgary has opened its doors to the larger community, with the smell of fresh java enticing visitors. A café with free WiFi is now running out of the sanctuary, where a coffee counter and seating area replaced seven rows of pews.
“We’re sitting in this gorgeous building named the Cathedral of the West that is appreciated by all kinds of people in Calgary — certainly not just people who are identified with Knox,” says Rev. Greg Glatz. “But it also sits dark and empty apart from concerts and Sunday worship most hours.” He says parishioners asked, “How do we animate God’s mission in that space?”
The café is only the first step in transforming the 105-year-old building. The church has a three-year plan, which includes a kitchen makeover for community use, the launch of a restaurant and a 5,000-square-foot co-working space where people can bring their laptops. The co-working space will be located in a series of three large rooms on the second floor and should be in operation by early next year. The existing kitchen and theatre, both on the lower floor beneath the sanctuary, will transform into a restaurant with a seating capacity of 80 to 100 people by 2019.
Glatz, who previously helped Winnipeg’s Westminster United launch a biweekly coffee house, says that United churches can be revitalized by re-engaging with God’s work: connecting people with each other, with their own true selves and with God. And he says that mission is resonating with his 300-plus congregation.
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