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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'A crazy idea' with walls

Luther's Table: coffeehouse by day, pub by night

A year ago Renton [Wash.] Lutheran Church was demolished to make room for the future. The "future" will soon open in the center of this Seattle suburb, where for more than six decades the congregation served a changing neighborhood. In its place is a four-story center with 58 apartments for veterans and their families and Luther's Table — a coffeehouse by day, pub by night.

The idea for the center and Luther's Table was birthed midway through this decade, as Renton Lutheran faced the reality of its eventual closing. The idea for redevelopment that included affordable housing and community outreach has breathed new life and spirit into the area and people.

Gretchen Weller Mertes, a pastor of
Gretchen Weller Mertes, a pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Renton, Wash., is one of many who are helping Luther's Table, which opens this fall, live out its motto: "Good Food and Generous People."
"Renton Lutheran was closing and had a deep desire to have a legacy. What [members] didn't have were the gifts to bring it to life," said Brian "Kirby" Unti, a pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Renton.

The vision for Renton Lutheran's legacy and the center's future has largely been driven by St. Matthew, the Northwest Washington Synod, and a host of other church and community folks. Their desire has been to include three keys: intentional community, authentic service and real conversation.

The housing portion of the project is headed by Compass Housing Alliance, but it owes its Veterans Affairs support to Washington Sen. Patty Murray, whose mantra was: "If we're going to send [servicepeople] to war, we better take care of them when they come home."


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