Life in a new “church”… from the barista’s chair


by Stephanie Embree

Editor’s Note: Union Dallas is new church plant in the Dallas area which is structured around a coffee house. Union just recently celebrated their one year anniversary of engaging in ministry in their community. 

There’s a building that sits tucked away on Dyer Street in Dallas. Its name glows in handwritten font. It’s across from a popular bar but gets just as much attention from the local college students. Inside the barista’s greeting reaches you before the smell of espresso does, and the couches are arranged to make it feel more like a living room than a shop.

To some it’s a second home, a warm place where they work and bring their friends for good conversation. To some it’s a venue, where they can share their music or stories without fear of rejection. And to some, like me, it’s a foothold in the city of Dallas where we can serve and love others like Jesus did.

Union is all of these things-bringing coffee, community and cause together in one building to make a difference. To invite, to inspire and to serve.

A non-profit organization, Union is the brainchild of several a launch team that wanted to reach outside their church bubbles and make a difference in the greater Dallas area.

“We wanted to have a place that was a breeding ground for community,” said Phil Dieke, a seminary student at Perkins Theology school and member of the launch team for Union. “One member asked how we could take what churches do with missions and do it as a coffee shop,” Dieke explained, “and I thought that was a great idea.”

As a barista my favorite part of my job is handing the customers their coffee and thanking them for helping children in Dallas learn how to read, or for helping stop domestic violence.

With 10% of their purchases going to our current cause the customer isn’t just receiving a cup of fair trade coffee mixed with homemade syrups. Instead, they are getting the chance to help us serve a greater cause. Union is, in a way, not only reaching out to Dallas but also pulling people in to a movement.

Ryan Kuecks is one of these people. The first time Ryan came to Union he was there for a meeting, the second time he came for the community. “I really started liking it because I met more friendly people here in one night that I had met in three months at church,” Kuecks said.

Through Union and its community Kuecks was able to find a job and find a place where he feels he can truly be himself. “I think this type of relaxed community, where you can talk honestly, is what we need,” he said. Now Kuecks is involved in several of the weekly events in and outside of the coffee shop, including outreach program and bible study.


There’s always something going on in Union. There’s Kuneo, a weekly alternative church service, where people sing Mumford and Sons songs and talk about living out their faith. There are conference rooms where everyone from volunteer organizations to study groups to local activists meet. And there’s the Naked stage where people can take part in storytelling or preform their music.

At Union you’re not just another name on a cup. You are a part of something good, and it doesn’t matter whether you intended to be or if you were just looking for a place to read.

I think it’s that knowledge, that my work and my time at Union aren’t simply self-fulfilling, that keeps me coming back. It’s not the kind people I work with, the regulars that make me laugh, or being able to draw on the large inside windows.

It’s the feeling that I’ve done something worthwhile, which is so rare for me. I’m your average college student who has no idea what they are doing with their life, and I’m taught that changing the world should take a backseat to having the things I want or need. But during my time at Union I’ve never been told to compromise. I’ve simply been told to serve, and promised that through the few hours I work behind the coffee bar I can make some kind of a difference.

“The Union difference.”


Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to



Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

Leave a Reply

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
Notify of
%d bloggers like this: