WEST PITTSTON — It’s a Friday night, not a Sunday. So it’s not the expected thing to find people heading for church. But this is the Lighthouse Fellowship Church, and one Friday night a month, people do make their way, not for services but for a lot of community spirit. And coffee.
Friday was the February coffeehouse gathering at the tiny church on Luzerne Avenue. Like its name, the lighted building on the dark street offered a guide to all comers. And come they did, around 25 people, to gather and chat, enjoy snacks and play games. The theme was “Beat the Blues,” appropriate for the dead of winter, said Gloria Wallace. She and her husband, Ralph, of Wilkes-Barre, have been coordinating the Friday night gatherings for a little more than a year.
But it’s really nothing new for the church community.
“We’ve been participating in these gatherings for about 11 or 12 years,” Ralph Wallace said. “It’s just lately that we stepped up and took over the reins.”
He summed up the night in a few words.
“Here’s our church. We are here. And we welcome any and all to join us,” he said.
Church members, guests and friends come from all directions, as far away as Bloomingdale or Tunkhannock, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, or as close as Jenkins Township, Wyoming or West Pittston itself.
The group Friday ranged in age from Pastor Shane Nichols and his wife, Stacey, who brought their kids ranging from nine (almost 10) to a 2-year-old, to 20-somethings to retirees. Folks streamed through the door carrying a variety of foods, even pizza and pierogies, to add to the snacks already set out by the Wallaces.
The variety of food depends largely on the evening’s “theme.” There was a tailgate party last fall when people brought their tailgating favorites, there was an ice cream social last summer, one night was devoted to pies.
“Sometimes it’s just snacks. Sometimes it’s real food,” Wallace said.
And every night starts with a short prayer, some noshing and then entertainment. Sometimes it’s games, once in a while there’s a movie, there has even been live music.
“It’s just a nice way to spend an evening,” said Heidi Bartoli, of Wyoming. “You get to sit down, talk to people, play games, have a cup of coffee.”
Or, if you want, there is soda. Or water.
Friday’s featured game was “Bubble Talk,” something on the order of “Apples to Apples,” in which people had to choose photo captions from a set of drawn cards and the winner was the comment deemed most appropriate to the picture.
As with any good party, there were jokes and laughs, conversation and lots of moving around. People shared tips on medicating a cold, commiserated with each other about concerns, caught up on absent family members or pulled out their phones to show photos.
And like any good event, the coffeehouse nights have spawned spin-offs. There was the “Fall Festival” around Halloween last year when church members set pots of chili outside and welcomed any and all to have a bowl during trick-or-treat time in the neighborhood.
Next month, because of an early Easter, there won’t be a coffeehouse night, but the church members will host a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” night – some folks will opt to fix dinner and others will choose to be guests and it will be the result of a lottery to learn who will appear on the doorstep at dinner time.
“This is a wonderful community of people,” said Nichols, who has led this flock for the past three years. “They don’t just show up to services but they also turn what they believe into action. And we welcome anyone who wants to come.”
Anyone interested in joining in the fun should check the church’s Facebook page or watch for notices in local newspapers.
“And we’re here to build community,” said Gloria Wallace. “Everybody needs a fellowship night.”