Coffeehouse in Allegheny Valley still going strong at 40

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Lazarus' Tomb in Arnold has been a fixture in the Allegheny Valley for more than four decades.

"I've been with it since it was a prayer group," said Rosetta Lecocq of New Kensington, who started the coffeehouse, now located at 1821 Fifth Ave., in 1972 with her husband, Bob, who has since died.

From the start, the coffeehouse was intended for ministry. What shocked the couple and others into starting a ministry was that "a lot of the drug culture was moving from the West Coast," Mrs. Lecocq said, noting that one person who was on drugs died because he thought he could fly.

The concept of a coffeehouse was borrowed from the 1960s counterculture and became fairly common in Christian circles in the 1970s. Lazarus' Tomb originally started in the nursery of a Lower Burrell bowling alley. It bounced around the New Kensington area for about 20 years and eventually found a home in Arnold, where it has been anchored since.

Lazurus' Tomb got its name from a spelunker who "was in a dark place," Mrs. Lecocq said. It refers to the biblical story of Jesus resurrecting a friend named Lazarus from the dead -- "where the dead come to life."

Last year, the coffeehouse changed its name to Sheep Inc. Arnold.

The interior of the coffeehouse is sprinkled with strings of lights, giving a more modern touch to the traditional coffeehouse decor of burning candles on every table. On a recent Saturday night, when concerts often are held, a worship team from Monroeville Assembly of God led the singing and one man delivered a message.

Much also goes on during the week. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, with a fellowship night, including Bible study, held on those evenings. Sparrow Ministries, a service that delivers food to shut-ins, those in personal care homes, senior citizen high-rises and the poor, takes place on Thursdays. Friday is considered a family night, with the child-oriented "Love Bears Outreach" taking place from 7 to 8:30 p.m..

In addition, Mrs. Lecocq said, the coffeehouse served more than 200 people for Thanksgiving Day. It also holds an annual children's gift party around Christmas.

The coffeehouse doesn't open on Sundays or Wednesdays because, Mrs. Lecocq said, it wants to complement the work of churches. "We don't want to compete with the church," she said.

In 2008, Lazarus' Tomb finally had the opportunity to buy a building.

"In 35 years of paying rent, we never had the money to buy a building," Mrs. Lecocq said. However, $20,000 was needed to bring the building back up to code, she said. Half of the money came from a couple in Ohio who had been regulars, and the rest came in donations.

"In 40 years, we never sent out an appeal for money," Mrs. Lecocq said.

Last year, when Lazarus' Tomb marked its 40th anniversary, it changed its name to Sheep Inc. Arnold, an affiliate of the Sheep Ministry of Monroeville Assembly of God, where Mrs. Lecocq attends and her son, the Rev. Lance Lecocq, is a pastor.

But it's still doing what it has been doing.

"We started with the objective that if we helped one person, it would be worth it," Mrs. Lecocq said. "We wanted to be the stepping stone between the street and being respectable."

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Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.


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