Feel the Love Coffee House
Created for my Jan 23, 2018 TR 651 assignment: This is the story of an event I have created at First Unitarian Church of St.Louis that uses the arts to celebrate the joy of human love in all its forms. In particular, the event is welcoming of LGBTQ relationships but truly celebrates all ways of loving. It's been a beautiful experience to see this event develop over time and to witness the joy that it brings to diverse members of our faith community. >
< The idea came out of our effort to become a Welcoming Congregation. This means we have successfully done the work to be certified as a congregation that welcomes and affirms the LGBTQ community. We created a warm and welcoming space for all members of our community to join together in celebrating love on the Friday night of Valentine's weekend through a "talent show" of offerings. The loose structure of the evening includes an opening video to set the mood, "open mic" readings and songs, other artistic expressions, a community valentine offering, and a time of remembrance.
The evening opens with a music video that I create to set the tone and celebrate a diversity of relationships. The one below from 2017 was set to the music of Sade's "Kiss of Life" and was a montage of kissing images. >
< The range of artistic contributions over the years have included groups of folk singers, soloists with piano or guitar accompaniment, and soulful duets. Many folks read poems, some "discovered" and others original, or even share brief essays that have deep personal meaning. In 2018, we will have our first "fiber arts" expressions included in the program.
One unexpected and beautiful outcome is the age diversity that has emerged from this event. We have had singers as young as 15 and older folks all contributing their talents for everyone to enjoy. This makes it a beautiful and authentic expression of community. >
< The Valentine "Love Offering" is something we have seen done in other Unitarian-Universalist congregations, and we adopted this here. We ask participants to reflect on who needs our love.
Finally, the most spiritual part of the evening is when folks are invited to come up to a table, which is arranged with small candles in the form of a heart. Taking a cue from the Catholic tradition of lighting candles of remembrance, we invite people to light candles in memory of those who have brought great love into their lives. >
< Valentine-making supplies are provided on the tables, and folks then pin their creations up on a board for the wider church community to enjoy in the following weeks. The results are surprising and moving.