Downtown Calgary church welcomes with coffee and a touch of profanity

CALGARY — Knox United Church has hosted concerts over the years, but the pews in beautiful old building still sat dark and unappreciated far too often.

So after a few months on a trial basis, they opened a full-time upscale coffee shop.

“We realized that church spaces seem closed off to people, and literally the doors to this historic sanctuary were closed every weekday,” says Rev. Dr. Greg Glatz.

But Glatz and his group are nothing if not self aware. So they anticipated prospective customers concerns and addressed them with a sprinkle of swears.

One of their slightly surprising sandwich boards reads: “YES! There is coffee inside the church. NO, it’s NOT sh***y church coffee.”

“People think church coffee is sh***y coffee because if you’ve ever been to church on Sunday and had coffee afterwards, that coffee usually isn’t very good,” Glatz said with a smile.

Sanctuary Coffee takes its beans very seriously, with a different roast from different suppliers for each different coffee drink they serve, meant to bring out the best in all.

“That’s how we show care to people, you really put a lot of your energy and your care into the quality,” says Jennifer Young, operations and volunteer manager at Sanctuary.

Knox United is an inclusive and affirming church, welcoming all genders and orientations.

That inclusivity extends to the rest of their customers lives outside the coffee shop – another sign reassures passers by to fear not, divine wrath shalt not strike you down.

“That sign, ‘Don’t worry you wont burst into flames if you come in here,’ has probably brought more people in here than any other advertising we’ve done,” Glatz says.

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The United Church has services twice a week, but even when God’s other business is underway, outside traffic is welcome to come in and grab a cup and move on at their leisure.

Sanctuary also has a ‘pay it forward’ program, allowing people to pay for a stranger’s coffee, ensuing no one goes without a fine cup simply because they can’t afford it.

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