Today we’re excited to feature the fourth episode of the Listening in Place Project with Cassie Carroll (Master of Divinity, ‘16), which we share monthly here on the Intersections blog. uthorfter graduating from The Seattle School, Cassie launched Listening in Place, collecting stories from pastors and practitioners throughout the United States who are practicing new, innovative, and compelling visions of what it means to be the church. In this episode, Cassie talks with Mike Baughman, Community Curator and founding pastor of Union Coffee in Dallas, TX, and Chelsea, who joined the team in the last year.

Mike: “We wanted a church that was so embedded in its neighborhood that if the doors were closed, it would actually matter to people other than the ones who show up for worship.”

Chelsea and Mike share about the unique, community-driven mission of Union Coffee, which grew out of a mission to “cultivate the divine spark in our neighbor, for the good of Dallas and the world that it expires.” Union focuses on what Mike calls “a ministry for rising generations,” and he shares how it was born after years of working in traditional church systems and repeatedly hitting walls or feeling like the rug was pulled out from under him.

When you look for God in others, they tend to see God in you.

Mike: “If we have crafted churches where pastors can’t be themselves, then can the people who attend those churches really be themselves?”

Mike, who is also the co-author and editor of Flipping Church, tells stories about the young people who are drawn to Union, who have often been hurt or burned out by churches in the past. Chelsea shares how, in her own experience, she was not necessarily drawn to Union because of the worship service, but because she how it was rooted in and attuned to its particular neighborhood in north Dallas. That, plus the familiar, communal atmosphere of a coffee shop, means that, for many, Union is less daunting than a church with pews and a steeple.

Chelsea: “Something that’s awesome about Union is that we’re able to adapt to whatever needs are current in the community. We’re not planning to say, ‘This is a need that might happen a year from now,’ we’re seeing what needs are currently here and what we can do as a community to help face those challenges.”

Mike: “Our foundational theology for Union is rooted in the omnipresence of God. We root everything we do in the fundamental assumption that God is at work in the neighborhood, God is at work in the lives of the people that walk in our doors. We didn’t set up this new church to bring God into the neighborhood or bring Jesus into the lives of the people who are here. Our assumption is that God is already at work. So our job is to see what God is up to and then cultivate that.”

You can learn more about the vision behind the Listening in Place Project here, and read more from Cassie’s time with Marvin over on the Listening in Place blog. And for more from Cassie, check out the presentation of her Integrative Project, “The Pastoral Both/And: A Complicated Story.”

Music courtesy of