Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia quietly opened the One World Coffeehouse - a good place to sit back, enjoy a cup of coffee and listen to good, live music with your family. Now in its second year, One World Coffeehouse at Owen Brown Interfaith Center has been host of 11 concerts and will offer five more through May.
The welcoming environment of Unitarian Universalist coffeehouses has provided an artistic haven for a variety of performers and helped launch the entertainment careers of folk musicians such as Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie. Howard County's One World Coffeehouse began when church member Lauren Haywood found something missing in the church when she joined the Trustees Committee.
"I felt that our church needed an outreach effort," says Haywood, "and a way to express Unitarian principles such as multiculturalism and acceptance of others different from yourself. I found that multicultural environment when I visited the Unitarian Universalist coffeehouse in Silver Spring."
She decided to start a Unitarian coffeehouse and started her musical education. She was tutored by Ariana Snodgrass, a member of the music group Kiva, who has run the Silver Spring coffeehouse for more than 10 years. There, she learned about sound engineers, where to find good musicians and how to pay them "well."
"The beginning was so hard. It was like throwing a large party every month, as anywhere from 50 to 100 people attend," says Haywood. "But volunteers from the congregation chipped in by taking tickets and selling coffee. And Owen Brown Interfaith Center's custodial staff has been great. It has become a huge group effort."
In the process, Haywood broadened her interest in music. Because she wanted the coffeehouse to express a multicultural aspect of music, she seeks out groups from other parts of the world. She particularly tries to find Latin bands, to cater to Howard County's growing Hispanic population. Also featured are African-American groups, Celtic, American folk and jazz, reggae, Afro-Cuban and other world music.
All groups that perform at One World Coffeehouse are local talents. Three groups - the Becks, Tom Monroe Jazz Fourtet and Karen Johnson/Kathy Smith - comprise UUCC congregation members. Soprano jazz vocalist Cecelia Calloway, who is the daughter of Cab Calloway and performed at the coffeehouse Saturday, resides in Howard County.
"The pure act of music is a spiritual one, as art is a vehicle through which we can all experience God," Haywood says. "In our modern machine era, the opportunity to experience live music is an opportunity to communally take part in that spiritual vehicle."
UUCC member Nancy Lewman, coffeehouse "regular," says it another way. "In our church, we express our spirituality in many ways, and we consider music to be one of those expressions. Music creates joy for me, and joy is spiritual. Music gives me bliss."
The next performance at One World Coffeehouse will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 27, when Kiva brings its world-beat style to Celtic rhythms. Admission is $10, with free admission for children younger than age 12. Concerts are held at Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way, in Owen Brown Village Center. All are welcome. Information: 410-381-0097. To join the One World Coffeehouse e-mail list, send a request to Lauren Haywood at firstname.lastname@example.org.