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Christian coffeehouse opens

September 17, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - About 35 teenagers, heads bowed in fervent prayer, celebrated the opening of the Solid Rock Cafe, a Christian coffeehouse where they can hang out, hear Christian rock music and play pool.

"We're not downplaying what we're about," said the Rev. Douglas Dowdey, who organized the club on Walnut Street and is a youth pastor at Glen Furney Assembly of God Church in Waynesboro. "We open with a prayer. Our primary objective is to reach non-Christian, unsaved teens."

Dowdey said teens congregate in places like McDonald's in Waynesboro. "They want a place to hang out and we're trying to give it to them," he said.

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Waynesboro area teens have an alternative at Extremes, a non-alcoholic nightclub on East Main Street that caters to 17- to 20-year-olds, said owner Mark Hoffman. It offers dancing to rap and high-energy rock by disc jockeys, along with music videos, he said.

Hoffman, 28, said three-fourths of his customers are female. The sexes are more evenly divided at the Solid Rock Cafe.

Hoffman said he met with Dowdey and was glad that he was opening the Christian club.

"We won't be competing. He's targeting kids that go to church. His place will be advertised in churches. My customers don't want that kind of music." Hoffman said he's had a "handful of fights" in his club since it opened about a year ago. "I've had to call in police," he said. "I've had about 60,000 visits by teens in the last year. We're very strict here with very tight security and good bouncers. We've had very few problems."

Dowdey, 37, said the Solid Rock Cafe is supported financially by the local community and area churches. The rent is $1,000 a month, plus insurance and utilities, he said.

The club opened with an adult board of directors, but eventually the teen members will run it, he said.

"If this is going to be successful it will be up to them," he said.

Stephenie Bender, 14, who attends Waynesboro Area Middle School, was at the Solid Rock Cafe Friday night. She came to hear the band Heal, a Christian rock group. "I'm here because of my youth pastor at church," she said.

David Adams, 14, her schoolmate, said he came because Bender and some of her friends talked him into it. "If I wasn't here I'd be hanging out with my friends at McDonald's," he said.

"I came to see what it was like and to hear the band," said T.J. Calhoun, 14. "I don't know if I'll come back or not," he said.

Meg Wishard, 14, a Waynesboro Area High senior, and her classmate, Jenny Barnhart, 15, were sitting at one of the dozen or more tables in the club waiting for Heal to start playing.

"I'm a Christian and this is the only place I can go. All the other places in Waynesboro have bad crowds, drugs and bad language," she said.

Frank Turner Jr., 16, of Sabillasville, Md., learned about the club through a flier.

"It's really good to have an alternative place to go to," he said. "I'll be back."

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