Originally created 09/13/03

Solomon's sweetens coffee with camaraderie



Solomon's Porch, a Christian coffeehouse in Aiken, wants to be a meeting place for young adults.

The gourmet coffee bar at 709 Pine Log Road is open Friday and Saturday nights. It has a snack counter, cappuccino machine, lounge area and restaurant tables. The grand opening is set for 6 p.m. to midnight Sept. 25-27, with a dedication Sept. 27. Pianist David McClintock of Greensboro, N.C., will play each night.

Solomon's will give young adults, ages 18 to 35, a place to hang out with friends over lattes, play video and board games, surf the Internet and hear live contemporary music - Christian and secular.

"We call it 'Java and jive'," said the Rev. Ray Popham, Solomon's owner. Solomon's also will book weekday luncheon speakers and offer Bible studies.

In the mid-1990s, the Rev. Popham founded the Aiken-based Called to All Nations, a church-planting ministry. He travels internationally, training pastors and organizing independent, nondenominational churches.

His radio program, Called to All Nations, is broadcast internationally. "I am always thinking 'missions,"' he said.

His long-range plans include starting a church in Aiken. "We are looking for transplants to the Aiken area. A lot of them don't have Christian fellowship and relationships," he said.

Polls show a majority of Americans believe in God and pray regularly, but when it comes to Sundays, many do not attend church - especially young adults, he said. "This tells me something - people don't have as much problem with God as they do with the institution that represents him."

People who watch MTV, play video games, listen to music and work on computers - sometimes all at once - are bored in traditional churches, the Rev. Popham said. "Churches aren't very graphic."

While twentysomethings get high marks for multi-tasking and being techno-savvy, only about a third attend church, a rate lower than any other population segment, according to Barna Research Group of Ventura, Calif. Young adults are not opposed to attending church, but it is not very compelling, either. "It is one of many options they have," said David Kinnaman, vice president of Barna, in a phone interview from his office.

Instead of trying to get people to pray the sinners' prayer or read the Bible more, pastors need to work to build long-term relationships, Mr. Kinnaman said. Young people "have had enough of disposable relationships."

Nontraditional settings, such as a cafe or coffeehouse, allow people to meet with friends, connect with Christian values and have Bible study. On the West Coast, such settings are evolving into churches. "God is speaking the same thing to this area," the Rev. Popham said.

For more information, call (803) 649-1444 or visit the Web site, www.calledtoallnations.org.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Solomon's Porch Christian coffeehouse

WHERE: 709 Pine Log Road, Aiken

WHEN: 6 p.m. to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays

PHONE: (803) 649-1444

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.