NEW PORT RICHEY — With the guidance of their pastor, the Rev. Gabriela Wright, the members of Asbury United Methodist Church have stepped out of their traditional type of worship to create an alternative type of worship in a coffeehouse setting.
Each Friday night some of the church's younger members — and some who are just young at heart — welcome the unchurched into a relaxed setting where coffee is served on small candlelit tables along with the sounds of contemporary Christian music.
The name of this ministry is From the Ground Up.
"We ponder what God is doing and then our job is to discern and jump on board," said Wright. "I felt God was saying there are many spiritual people (out there) but they don't believe church is a part of their spirituality."
This ministry provides an opportunity for people to come together to sing, to discuss and ask questions, Wright added.
Members of the church turned half of their Fellowship Center into the Coffee House, where they serve coffee and sweets along with the Word of God.
Wright provides a brief, timely message and there is ample opportunity to ask questions and seek answers together, said Jo Anderson, a church lay leader.
"All this leads to a time and place to nurture one's spirituality and to develop new meaningful relationships," said Anderson.
One Friday night topic: Where is Heaven? Another was about how some people perceive the Bible as contradicting itself.
"I told them that if each one of us went home and wrote about what we experienced tonight, each one would write something different," said Wright. "But each one would be true. That is how the four Gospels tell the story: all true, somewhat different."
Wright has been the pastor at the church at 4204 Thys Road in New Port Richey for almost a year. She is the church's first woman pastor.
"I love it there," she said. "They have embraced me wonderfully."
Anderson says the church is a sanctuary for mostly older believers. The Coffee House is a way to reach out the people of the X and Y generations.
They are even looking for Christian bands and singers who would like to perform in future Friday night settings.
"As the crowds get larger we will even expand our coffee offerings," said Wright.