The Congregation Reimagines a Historic Church

The Congregation

Betsy Murdoch has lived in metro Detroit over 10 years and worked the back end of the wholesale coffee business for nearly as long. She and her husband started looking for homes in the city and were disappointed to find almost no walkability in the areas they loved.

“I love the vibe that coffee shops create in a community, but if you aren’t downtown there’s really nowhere to walk to eat, work, entertain, etc. We settled in Boston Edison, and it’s beautiful, but we wanted somewhere we could gather and have a good time in the neighborhood,” Murdoch says.

She’d always drive past the old church on Rosa Parks Boulevard and thought nothing of it. But four years ago, she saw that the doors were wide open and ready for rehabilitation. “It was fate!” She says. “I know how to run a good business, and I know what my community wants.”

The 2,500-square-foot vacant church, formerly christened New St. James, was last used as a place of worship until 2014. The Congregation, a café serving coffee, cocktails, sweet treats and more, opened in March. Murdoch utilized funds from a Motor City Match win plus grants from the Michigan Women Forward and Detroit Development Fund to outfit and update the space with themed furniture.

She says they kept the original stained glass and as much of the historical décor as they could. “We needed to keep the integrity of the church. The story is important because Detroit has a lot of great architecture. We hope we inspire people to do cool things with a lot of cool different buildings,” Murdoch says.


She says they plan to host events like live music and yoga sessions. And, right now, the whole wheat turkey sandwich is the café’s bestseller. “That and the salmon bagel.”

9321 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit

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