Rev. Paul Waterman ’16 and Pastoral Intern Jacob Krueger Brew Coffee to Support Seminaries

Rev. Paul Waterman ’16

Normally, the people of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Carbondale, IL, gather each fall around Reformation to share in a meal and bid on dinners as a part of the “Dinner Auction for Seminary Education.” It is among my favorite ministry experiences each year; food, laughter, and fun. In 2019, more than a dozen dinners were auctioned off, and thousands of dollars were sent to two ELCA seminaries. In March, as my family was preparing to purchase groceries and prepare food for the seventeen people who bought a “spot at the table” for our March Madness dinner, we made the difficult, and correct, decision to postpone until the threat of COVID-19 had passed. As of this writing, we are still waiting.

Zoom forward to November of 2020. We committed our annual minimum support of $1,000 to each of the seminaries we support, but we realized that we hadn’t put together any formal fundraising effort. On Sunday, December 13, I made the “executive decision” that we would roast coffee at my house and give it away to those who would donate to seminary support. Although it wasn’t the most polite way of doing things, I didn’t give Pastoral Intern Jacob Krueger a heads up. So he found out he was a co-director in this program at the same time the assembly heard about it: during announcements after Sunday morning worship. To generate interest, I decided the tagline would be: “This may not be the best coffee you drink, but it will be the freshest.”

The next Sunday, after lunch, Jacob and I gathered around my grill in our driveway, where we spent more than three hours roasting coffee. We spent plenty of time in conversation, talking about seminary, about Epiphany, and about the upcoming Christmas holiday. With each batch, we took joy in knowing that people we know and love would enjoy fresh coffee, and Wartburg Seminary would receive funds that will continue the mission of forming church leaders. With cold feet, and as the sun set, we realized that we had roasted a full day’s worth of beans!

There were multiple opportunities for people to pick up the coffee from the church. We enjoyed sharing stories of us roasting coffee, and we found that the coffee-roasting process opens up new topics of conversation. When the last bag of coffee was picked up, we high-fived and realized that more than $2,000 had come in as a result of the Coffee for a Cause. Hundreds of cups of coffee were enjoyed, and two ELCA seminary communities received financial support to continue the mission of educating, training, and forming church leaders.

Looking back on the Coffee for a Cause, I still smile at the way in which the Holy Spirit worked in and through the Epiphany community. As a relatively new home coffee roaster, I knew enough to be confident that we could roast decent coffee, and that together, Intern Jacob and I could spend some time discussing in a more relaxed setting. Although it took a fair amount of time and energy, the memories made during the roasting process were enjoyable.

I’ve often thought about how we used our knowledge, experience, and equipment to serve the greater good. I had everything but the coffee beans, so there wasn’t a significant cost or assembly of tools. I often wonder what else I have access to that could be used for the glory of God.

I don’t know what the future of Coffee for a Cause holds. This may have been a one-time event. This may be an annual event! Whether it happens again or not, I am grateful for Pastoral Intern Jacob and his work, for the people of Epiphany who generously support seminaries year after year, and for Wartburg Seminary, which was so transformational for me in my pastoral formation.

Jacob Krueger, MDiv ’22

Pastor Paul brewed this idea one weekend before Sunday worship. He never shared with me that we would roast coffee until he announced it at the Sunday worship service. In this spontaneous idea and decision, Pastor Paul was trying to respond to this congregation’s desire to support Wartburg and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago financially to provide students with a quality education and financial assistance.

This project was a brilliant idea in many ways, because many people typically gather around coffee after the church service and join in fellowship. Because of COVID-19, people haven’t been able to share a cup of coffee very often, especially since I’ve been at this internship site at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Carbondale, IL. For many people, coffee is part of the human experience, and folks need copious amounts of it these days when they aren’t heading to coffee shops to get their caffeine.

My experience on internship during a global pandemic has been far from my expectations when I enrolled in seminary; however, we are making do, considering the circumstances. I was quite surprised when I was assigned here, because this is a new internship site. My supervisor, Pastor Paul, WTS ’16, and my Lay Internship Committee have provided plenty of learning opportunities and experiences that will forever impact my future ministry. The people of Epiphany are generous givers and have been flexible and agile in responding to the needs of Carbondale’s community during these challenging times.

Many of the members of this congregation are connected to Southern Illinois University or the local school system and are familiar with internships in their experience of student teaching or working in higher education. It has been excellent receiving feedback or tips from the members at Epiphany.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, other people, and ministry in general. I’m grateful that I’ve followed God’s call to this particular ministry site. Considering the current circumstances, I couldn’t think of a better place to learn and grow as a person and as a pastor.

This project has impacted the community monetarily by inviting them to live generously and respond to God’s call in the world. Coffee for a Cause wasn’t an extravagant event like I might have experienced if this had not been a COVID-19 year, but we used the resources and gifts at our congregation to respond to a need. I’m reminded how important it can be to create community and share a common purpose during challenging times.