If These Walls Could Speak

Music, Coffee, Community and the Legacy of Koinonia

Mike Lenda

When we got the call from Belmont Church about a space they owned called Koinonia, I couldn’t help but feel excitement come over me. They were looking for someone to revive the former gathering space on Music Row that had mostly been quiet for several decades. They were looking for someone who cared about the history and would guide its future. I knew of this space, I had attended gatherings here, and I knew of the stories that echoed in these walls. So when we visited the former coffeehouse, bookstore and event venue, I could feel the history with every step; and I knew we were being invited to revive something special. I knew we were being invited to steward a legacy, celebrate a history and invite community back into the walls of Koinonia. It had been several decades since the location was the epicenter of the history of Christian Music. It’s where artists such as Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant sang their first songs. People poured into this corner on 16th and Grand, in what was then a rough neighborhood, to sing together, build community and pray for the hurting world around them. And now, we were being asked to breathe life back into this corner with some coffee, community and music. And we couldn’t help but say YES.

Shortly after our first visit, we were invited to provide coffee at the of the historic site marker reveal at Koinonia. The event was hosted by local government leaders and leaders in the music industry who wanted to make sure the legacy of the building was preserved. Michael W Smith and Amy Grant both spoke of how that space affected them personally – much more than just a place to perform, but a place to be invited into a community that was birthing something special. The lyrics quoted at the event from a song that Amy Grant wrote entitled “1974” speaks of that time:

We were young
None of us knew quite what to say
But the feeling moved
Among us in silence anyway
Slowly we had made
Quite a change
Somewhere we had crossed a big line
Down upon our knees
We had tasted holy wine
And no one could sway us
In a lifetime

We didn’t know that less than a year later after the marker was revealed and the conversations continued, we all were going to walk through some hard times locally and globally. Yet, the vision remained. Just like Amy’s song, we couldn’t be swayed. Once we were beginning to see business grow again, we restarted our plans. Our customers started to return at our other neighborhood locations. They fought to keep us alive during the darkest time, so we feel that we all are experiencing a little revival in many ways. To honor this, we created our Revival Blend, a blend of Central American coffees, celebrating all we have walked through and all the hope we have yet to experience. That’s why we believe revival is brewing as we all walk forward to the next chapter at The Well Coffeehouse.

Rebuilding a historic building in the middle of a challenging social and economic time takes vision, energy, effort and resources. You can read more about our plans here. But it also required that same vision in the 70s to bring people together during a different challenging time. The building was built in the early 1900s, so a lot of work needs to be done to bring it up to codes while preserving the space that so many have enjoyed over the years. Yet, since our first meeting about Koinonia, I have felt that God is the one writing the story of this space. He’s inviting us into this new chapter of where He’s going next. That has been the story of everyone I happen to talk to who have been impacted by this space. They can’t wait to share how it’s changed their lives. They can’t wait to tell the story of what they experienced in Koinonia. I can’t wait to tell their stories to others who want to be invited into this amazing journey of restoration.

When this space opens and coffee begins to brew in the Spring of 2022, The Well Koinonia will be one of the only live venues on Music Row, and we believe has the potential of being a s ought-after stage like the Bluebird Café just a few miles away. Beyond serving great coffee and food, we look forward to it being a beacon of hope, a legacy of great music and place that will bring healing and restoration to a hurting world. And this will fuel our mission: more water projects funded, more people with clean water, more coffee farmers with living wages and more customers impacted over conversations over coffee.

We invite you to join us on this journey. You can DONATE to help us restore this space. You can pick up an extra bag of coffee to celebrate the opportunity. You can share the story with others who. And if you’ve been impacted by this space, I’d love to hear your story because your experience echoes in those walls and will fuel the stories of the generations to come.