Coffee is not exactly Thomas Rusert’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, every Thursday morning Pastor Thomas indulges himself in a steaming cup of java at local coffee houses. “I’m a tea drinker all the other days of the week,” said Thomas, the associate pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “I’m a weirdly patterned person.” It does seem a bit unusual – akin to a vegetarian ordering tofu at a barbecue joint. But it turns the pastor’s weekly coffee klatch is all about prayer. Yes, prayer. Every Thursday morning, Pastor Thomas puts on a clergy collar and sets up shop in a local coffee house. He sets out a little sign that reads, “Free Prayer,” and then waits to see who God sends his way. “I’m humbled all the time by the way that the Spirit works,” the pastor told me. “God is working to give people the courage to say, ‘All right – I’m going to take this pastor up on this offer.’” And they have – by the hundreds. The “Free Prayer” program started quietly last summer – inspired by a word of advice Pastor Thomas had received from another member of the clergy — a pastor is doing the job well when at least half of his or her time is spent outside the office. That advice was something of an epiphany for the young Lutheran preacher. He wrote about his experiences next in a column titled, “Why I Offer ‘Free Prayer’ In A Coffee Shop.” “Sometimes we have to move beyond the shadows of a steeple to take care of our people,” he wrote. “And in so doing, we may just find that God takes care of us, too.
Photo: Fox / Thomas Rusert