Ministry Profile: Mercy Street Cafe

By Dom Ruggiero —  May 1, 2013 — Leave a comment


Consider this..It is a Friday or Saturday night. You want to go hang out with friends, listen to good music and meet new people. For a lot of people that might mean going to a bar or club. However, for Christians and recovering addicts that is not an option. But don’t fret brothers and sisters in Christ, we have our own clubs and watering holes now.

There has been a boon of Christian coffeehouses that have sprung up in and around South Jersey. One such place is the Mercy Street Café in The Waters Community Worship Center in Washington Township. The Mercy Street Café is located in a wing of the church building. If you are driving by you can see the Cafe from Delsea Drive. Instead of a brick wall you will notice an array of windows. It was built that way on purpose so anyone driving up could see what is going on inside.

I had the pleasure of spending a Friday night there a few weeks ago with my wife. We had such a great time I felt like everyone should know about it. Who wouldn`t like to know about some Christian entertainment, fellowship, free food, free beverages and coffee. That’s right…FREE. The church donated some fresh hot pizza and some of the regulars brought in their covered dish donations as well. I think the next time I go I will do the same.

After seeking out the leaders of this ministry I was directed to Pastor Bill and Lisa. Bill Vespe, Lisa Moran, Bruce Battaglia and Peter Mace, who are elders in the church, oversee the operation of the Mercy Street Café. I sat down for a chat with them to find out more about the Café.

“It was the vision of the churches pastor, Pastor Dan Fessler and his wife Kathy, to have a place for Christians to gather and fellowship while enjoying live praise and worship,” Pastor Bill explained. “They have a passion for the performing arts and believe in the gifts of music, art and poetry.”

What I came to find out from Pastor Bill was that this venue isn’t anything new here. They had this vision for a long time and even ventured out back in the ’90s by having youth events here.

“Back then it was called Club 19,” he said. “It ran for two years then sort of dried up. During that time there would be a packed room of teens. We had over 300 teens jammed into here at one time.”

But just like the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes or Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead so has this ministry arose. Now, in addition to the Café the church holds an Addictions Victorious meeting called Safe Harbor 61. They meet here every Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Café also hosts a fellowship called The Social Jam with food, beverages and live music that is for the addictions group once a month but open for anyone to attend.

“It’s not just for the addicts. Safe Harbor 61, which is a reference to Isaiah 61, is for the addicts on Tuesday nights but for The Social Jam on Fridays once a month is for anybody,” Lisa Moran said. “It’s meant to be a positive spiritual environment for everyone.”

Pastor Bill points out why they do this Social Jam once a month: “We do this under the umbrella of Addictions Victorious because people (addicts) don’t have an environment to go to that is safe. Alcoholics and addicts especially, need a safe place to go.”

Lisa and Pastor Bill saw this as a way for the addictions group to blend in with other Christians and a way to help them from seeking out entertainment in the wrong places. The sailing term “any port in a storm” may work for sailing but not when it comes to addiction. If there isn’t anywhere positive to go then they will slip back into their addictions. I can’t help but think of a line of scripture from Isaiah 4:6 that says “And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for shelter from storm and rain.”

Addiction or everyday struggles can be like a storm and our natural instinct is to seek shelter or safety. Sometimes these storms are so overwhelming that you give up and let yourself succumb to the storm. That happens when you don`t have a support system or someone to call. But you must have faith. Matthew 14:22-33 is a good piece of scripture regarding faith in a storm or time of crisis.

This vision or idea to have a venue for the addictions group was started back in November 2011. After much prayer and planning the Social Jam came to life. They have been doing this now for four months and plan to keep it going as long as God wants to keep it going.

“We are also planning a retro night with a ’60s theme,” Lisa said. “It will be similar to the Legends show that used to play in Atlantic City but with a Christian twist.”

There are big plans to expand this ministry. Pastor Bill is looking ahead and his vision sees a vibrant ministry.

“We are looking to have it open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night,” he said. “We are thinking of having big screen TVs that will be playing Christian videos, scrolling church info and showing local sporting events.”

Both Lisa and Pastor Bill will be quick to tell you that the goal of the Café is relationships. “Whatever it takes to get people to know Christ,” Pastor Bill said.

So if you are seeking some wholesome entertainment and fellowship or if you are having turmoil in your life, struggling with things or life is just too overwhelming for you then think about contacting Lisa or Pastor Bill, they will help you find shelter from the storm.

You can visit The Waters website at to find out about upcoming dates for the Social Jam. Addictions Victorious meets every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. for praise, worship, Bible study, 12 step and meetings. The website for Safe Harbor 61 at the waters Church is or you can email Lisa at Addictions Victorious Website is

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