It’s not unheard of for churches to meet in nontraditional spaces, such as people’s homes or school auditoriums. But Bethany Covenant Church in St. Charles, Illinois, might just take the cake—or perhaps the donut—for their worship space inside Dimple’s Donuts.
Bethany Covenant Church was founded by pastor Laura Tarro along with her husband, Jeff, and other members of a community Bible study that began meeting in 2014. They began meeting in a nearby church and then wanted to find their own space. They inquired about a vacant building that had previously housed a donut shop, but it was out of their price range at the time.
In January 2022, Jeff, who works as a captain for the St. Charles Fire Department—responded to a call about a burst pipe in that same vacant building. He and Laura assisted in the cleanup effort—both through Jeff’s role with the fire department and on their own time—and the property owner asked whether they were still interested in the space.
She was planning to reopen Dimple’s Donuts and suggested an arrangement where Dimple’s and Bethany Covenant jointly occupied the space. Bethany Covenant began meeting in the building in September of 2022. In April, Dimple’s Donuts reopened. The church worships in the larger dining room area next to the main counter, with space for children’s ministry downstairs.
Laura, who became a licensed pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in 2021, says she hopes that worshiping in a nontraditional space will help the church cultivate a welcoming atmosphere, particularly for people without a church background. “There’s a lot of pressure when you cross the threshold into a church building if you’ve never been a part of it to know how you’re supposed to behave….part of what we’re trying to do is break down those barriers.”
The Tarros spend time in the store even when Bethany Covenant is not meeting, as they seek to enter into conversations and develop relationships with their neighbors. According to Jeff, they’re motivated by their view of “a church being a part of the community rather than a community apart.”
Bethany Covenant seeks to remain true to their roots as a community Bible study, creating onramps for people without a church background to become involved and ask questions. “I think that’s how Christ gets conveyed, and that’s really what we want, is to be the aroma of Christ in our community,” says Laura, “and sometimes that smells like donuts.”