SoulCafe Fosters Spiritual Rediscovery: Theology Dean Opens High-Tech Pastoral Retreat
Vanderkam, Laura R., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Leonard Sweet, dean of the Drew University School of Theology, happened upon the God-and-cafe business by chance.
Driving through the scenic Canaan Valley, W.Va., a few years ago, Mr. Sweet remembers, "My soul was hijacked by the sense that somehow my destiny was caught up with this plot of planet Earth, where God did some of creation's finest artwork. So I managed to squeeze together three free hours to shop around for some property."
Soon, he was the new owner of a stretch of the valley, with no idea how he would pay for the purchase.
But after borrowing from banks, his friends and his pension fund, Mr. Sweet opened Sweet's Body and SoulCafe and Mountain Store in the old railroad and mining town of Thomas, W.Va., which has a population of 200.
The cafe is so high-tech, he says, it would be "cutting edge" even in New York City. Along with the standard cappuccino fare, it has Internet connections and a bookstore. Travelers can recharge their spiritual batteries in the beautiful mountain setting.
"The SoulCafe is a place of reflection where one can step back and ask how the soul is recovered," Mr. Sweet says. "After all, God gave us the mountain peaks as one of the soul's native habitats. It is here that perspective is regained and we realize God is near at hand to help us on our journey to spiritual wholeness."
Mr. Sweet's store is also the inspiration for his newest book, "A Cup of Coffee at the SoulCafe," a collection of meditations on spirituality and modern life. Packed with Bible verses and quotes from philosophers, Mr. Sweet's call for spiritual renewal pulls insights from family history, modern culture, music, sounds and smells.
He wrote the book to bring the message of the Gospel to those who are suspicious of organized religion but intrigued with spirituality. …