Chipper slogan aside, Richmond's not always easy to love. But that hasn't stopped Chris Barras from trying.
“You love a place not because it's lovable,” Barras says. “You love it until it's lovable.” That philosophy, which Barras calls “love beyond reason,” is the bedrock of Area 10 Faith Community, the independent, progressive Christian church he founded in 2008.
He wanted to create a church that would make a tangible difference in the city. He wanted his church to be “highly generous and low-overhead” so that the congregation's offerings could be put to good use in the community. And he envisioned a church that could support itself, at least partially, by running a family-friendly business.
Barras knew it would be tough. “Planting a church is kind of the extreme sport of pastoring,” he says. In the spring of 2008, he quit his Starbucks manager job, which he'd been working to support his wife, Abby, and their three children, and hit the road to raise money. It wasn't easy, Barras says, but “we made it through.”
In September 2008, Area 10 Faith Community held its first service in the Byrd Theatre. Two years later, the congregation numbers about 250 and has logged more than 3,300 volunteer hours with local organizations.
Just down Cary Street, the church opened Cartwheels and Coffee, a bright play space and coffee shop for busy parents and energetic toddlers. The coffee shop promises to soon become a profitable endeavor for the church, Barras says, and that additional income will help Area 10 feed Richmond's homeless, improve neighborhood schools, and carry out missions in places such as Vietnam and Haiti.