For years, the First United Methodist Church offered an evening of entertainment, fundraising and socializing on a Friday night in Moorestown. Its CoffeeHouses series was a staple event for some, but when the husband and wife team running the events left the church, the series went with it.
Before long, residents lamented the loss of the series. So within the last year, Allan Hanlon has worked hard to breathe fresh life into the CoffeeHouses. The first event of 2020 will take place at FUMC on Friday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 p.m. and will feature the local band Natural Causes.
The CoffeeHouses feature local bands as well as “singalongs” that get the audience involved. Hanlon, whose own band, Trouble With Plaid, has performed at the event in years past, said the singalongs were the result of a performance with some of his buddies.
While they played crowd pleasers such as “Build Me Up Buttercup” and “Sweet Caroline,” the crowd chimed in, and Hanlon realized people like to sing along at any age. So he started bringing a projector to the event to broadcast song lyrics.
Natural Causes will take the stage Jan. 31. Bassist Stephen Di Pilla said the CoffeeHouses have proven to be a friendly audience in the past, so the band is excited to try out their material and see the reaction.
Started around a year and a half ago, Natural Causes plays predominantly soft and classic rock from the ’70s and ’80. For its CoffeeHouses performance, the band has structured its set in chronological order with the songs starting in the 1960s and progressing through the 1980s.
Unlike some other bands, Natural Causes doesn’t just play straight through its set. Di Pilla said his own curiosity about song origins is fused into a performance, with the band giving background on some of the songs it plays.
“It helps people to enjoy the music a lot more if you know what the writers had in mind when they recorded it,” Di Pilla noted.
Artwork by one or more local artists is typically available for sale. Hanlon said the events attract a diverse range of artists from teenagers all the way to people in their 80s.
While there is no fee to attend, donations are accepted, with the proceeds going toward charitable organizations. Past beneficiaries were the Interfaith Hospitality Network — which assists homeless families — and Kate’s Place, an organization that serves developmentally delayed teens and young adults.
The church’s Reconciling Community will be the beneficiary of the Jan. 31 event. A year ago, FUMC became a Reconciling Congregation through the Reconciling Ministry Network, a national network of Methodists committed to the inclusion of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The reconciling team will use the funds to bring more inclusionary programming and events to the church.
All said, the church works to cultivate a warm and welcoming atmosphere at every CoffeeHouse event they put on, and their doors are open to anyone who wants to attend.
“We are an open inviting church,” Hanlon said. “We want the community to come, to share and to enjoy.”
Additional CoffeeHouses this season are scheduled for March and May, with dates yet to be announced.