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Work to Begin on Church Coffee Shop

Nearly a century ago, a diner was constructed on the corner of F and Second streets Northeast to serve butter eggs to hungry travelers coming from the trains at Union Station. Still standing, but run down and crumbling from years of neglect, the building has been an eyesore to Capitol Hill residents for some time.

Until now.

On Nov. 21, the National Community Church held a groundbreaking ceremony to officially begin the final step of a years-long process that will culminate in Ebenezers, a multilevel community coffee shop.

While the church will own and operate the shop, “it will look and feel like a normal coffee shop,” said project manager Christina Borja. “We want everyone to feel comfortable there, regardless of their faith.”

The National Community Church, which holds Sunday services in movie theaters at Union Station and Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, Va., purchased the land for the coffee shop in February 2002, with hopes of turning it into a multipurpose gathering place for the community.

After overcoming zoning hurdles and receiving clearance from the Historic Preservation Review Board earlier this year, construction of the coffee shop should begin this week and is slated to be complete in September 2005.

Pastor Mark Batterson has called the coffee shop “a place where the church and community can cross paths.” The finished building will have exposed brick walls, a fireplace and warm lighting to provide a comfortable atmosphere for patrons.

Borja said she expects a significant amount of business from those who work in offices around Capitol Hill, but she predicted most of the shop’s patrons will come from the surrounding residential neighborhood.

“Nothing in the neighborhood is really open past 8 p.m., or even 4 for that matter,” she said. Ebenezers will stay open until 10 or 11 p.m. daily, providing a place where Hill residents can meet and relax into the evening.

In addition to a full-service coffee shop on the main level, the building will contain a lower level with room to seat up to 214 people and an upper level with church offices.

While the lower level will have meeting space, the church will continue to hold its regular Sunday services in the movie theaters. The lower level will serve mainly as overflow seating for the coffee shop, as well as a place for community meetings, concerts and weekly evening services.

Batterson and his wife, Lora, started the National Community Church in 1996. At the time, they had 19 congregants and held services at Giddings School, now the site of Results the Gym.

Shortly after the Giddings School closed, Batterson, then 26, moved services to the theaters at Union Station. The church now has more than 700 regular congregants, most of whom are single and in their 20s.

“Our vision is to meet in movie theaters at Metro stops throughout the D.C. area,” Batterson said. “The average person who doesn’t go to church can be intimidated walking into a church building, but everyone’s been to the movies.”

The friendly setting appeals to those whom Batterson calls “un-churched or de-churched” — people who do not attend church regularly or no longer attend church regularly.

“For those people, it’s sort of like church on the rebound,” Batterson said.

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