Community cafe blurs the lines between food bank and coffee house

The Bell Tower Community Cafe is a food bank, guised as a community coffee house, that began in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a sustainable partnership between a local church and the city – and local minister Greg Glatz wants it to remain that way.

“We wanted to avoid a ‘church ownership’ model for the cafe and focus on making good things together with the community – instead of for the community or against the community,” says Glatz, the cafe’s founding director and a 2014 Portland Seminary Doctor of Ministry graduate who serves as a staff pastor at Winnipeg’s Westminster United Church. Westminster hired Glatz to engage residents of Winnipeg at a time when church leadership perceived a decades-long disconnect between the congregation and the community. This disconnection led to a re-imagining of the church’s partnership with the city. “This isn’t a single church’s mission. It is an enterprise that the city [of Winnipeg] and the church do together,” says Glatz.

Greg Glatz
Bell Tower Community Café coordinator, Meaghan Pauls and founder and director, Greg Glatz.

Every other Friday night, more than 150 people gather at Westminster for an evening of great food, live music, and vibrant community. The event starts in the afternoon, when a large team of volunteers pick up food from Winnipeg Food Harvest, a local food bank, and bring it to Westminster. The team of volunteers from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds set up the cafe and stage for live music, and sort food into boxes to be given away at the end of the evening.

“We didn’t want to start another food bank where there are helpees and helpers. In fact, often the volunteers helping set up are recipients of groceries at the end of the night,” says Glatz, who credits the Semiotics and Future Studies DMin program for this paradigm shift.

“My studies at George Fox gave me an opportunity to think about how the line between the church and the community can be removed without losing [ministry] that is missional, truly relational, and authentically incarnational.”

For more information about the Bell Tower Community Cafe, watch the video below and visit