It’s incredible how a space can hold so many memories and deep connections to the stories of our lives. The Black Drop, located on Champion St. in downtown Bellingham, has held my memories, hopes, tears, and love for almost 20 years. As a student at Western Washington University, one of the most important rites of passage is to venture downtown on foot and discover the places where you can belong and begin to call home. I found it there.
Known for their specialty coffee drinks, creative lattes, and welcoming community, The Black Drop was my go-to place to meet with college students in my time serving at the INN University Ministries. On Friday mornings, free doppios (double shot espressos) were accompanied by deep conversations about faith, music, and growing up. This was a safe place — a place to process who we are, a place to explore literature and sexuality and dark roasted coffee. I remember teaching one college student about how you need to drink espresso shots within the first minutes off the machine, or else they “died” and became overly bitter. This is one of the places where I realized how sacramental sharing a cup with another person could be. It is a sacred space.
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about this cafe (and how it speaks of many places in Bellingham) is the welcoming, affirming environment. Diverse members of Bellingham society always filled the Black Drop. City of Bellingham and Logos Bible Software employees intermingling with freelance web designers; trans and queer folk alongside pastors and poets — this place was central to the life of our strange little town. Everyone was welcome — AND everyone was expected to be welcoming/loving/accepting, no exceptions!!
As I reflect on my experiences in this cafe, I see how it helped form my heart for what it means to be a pastor who makes space for other people. I sincerely believe that the church must find itself in these public spaces, being the loving hands of God in our community, showing up where life is already happening. The cafes, breweries, lunch spots, gyms, and art galleries of our city are the place where God is already moving, already at work. To follow Jesus, in my understanding, is to go and be with people in this life, coming alongside to support, care, and grow together.
A dear friend called me when he saw that The Black Drop was closing. We talked for about 15 minutes, recalling some of our significant moments together in this cafe. Another friend messaged me on Facebook from Zambia, remembering our shared cups together many years ago. If I’m honest, this cafe is where the love of coffee became a part of my bloodstream, a central part of my understanding of pastoring and sharing life with people. I will dearly miss it.
We have witnessed many changes and challenges as a part of this COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses have struggled to survive. We lament, remember, and anticipate what is next. In closing, I offer two words of direction. First, support the places you love and have brought you into a deeper relationship with this community. And second, follow, and get behind new places that are attempting to make room for the beautiful mosaic of people who make up our city. May we “champion” the new communities that rise in the power of resurrection that comes after we mourn the death of what we love.
Grace and peace,