Ministry of the Coffee Shop

Ministry of the Coffee Shop: Why it is a good thing I spend so much time at Seven Stars. 

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One of my favorite things to do is to spend time doing work at a local coffee shop.  Seven Stars is my absolute favorite place to do this.  It is a local place with a few locations in RI with good coffee and great pastries.  It is one of my favorite places to write sermons, prep for EfM, or do any other thing that I can on my computer.  This morning hanging out at Seven Stars, I was truly struck by how powerful it is to hang out in the coffee shop.

It is often busy at Seven Stars, particularly in the morning, but I can’t remember a time when It was like today.  Tons of people waiting for tables, and a few getting rather angry if they perceived someone to be “jumping the line” for a table.  To women were sitting at a rather large table, having noticed I was waiting, they invited me to join them.  I took out my book – A Short Introduction to the Old Testament – and starting ready.

I was very much struck by the conversation these two women were having.  they spoke of ministry, of experiences at Harvard Divinity School, the work of Henri Nouwen, and so much more.  After sometime sitting with them, I noticed another table opening.  I began to gather my things, and thank them for sharing their table with me.  That’s when something happened.  One of the women inquired about what I was reading and my associates cross.  What followed was a brilliant and grace filled conversation.

They asked about my cross, what I was reading, what I do for a living, and what drives my passion.  One woman shared stories of her grandfather – an Episcopal priest in the 1880s.  She offered to meet me again for coffee and share stories from his journal as a missionary from Brooklyn, NY to mining communities out west.  The other talked about grace and being present in ministry.  Of places of calm she found at EDS in some of the most challenging moments of her life.  She spoke of the beauty and emotion  – the getting out of the cerebral world – of experiences worshipping with a friend at GTS.  It was an amazing moment.  I had never met, nor had I ever seen, these women.  But we spoke of experiences, of theological perspectives, of hopes for the world and the Church Universal as if we’d been friends for years.  It was a remarkable thing.

After they left, I moved to a smaller table.  The hustle and bustle of the morning had worn away.  The usual late morning hum resumed.  As I sat drinking coffee, I could not help but think of all the grace filled conversations I’ve had with perfect strangers here at Seven Stars.  Talking homiletics and trying out sermon ideas with an older couple; looking at the similarities between Christian and Jewish worship with a Rabbi; talking about service and faith with a member of the local Unitarian congregation.  On top of all this there are the conversations with clergy colleagues and former parishioners with whom paths cross.

Seven Stars has become more than just a place to grab a coffee and ginger star (seriously one of the best cookies ever).  It has become a holy and grace filled place.  A place where encounters with the holy happen over pastries, where deep joy and pain are shared, where knowing that even when  you cannot find a table there is still a place for you.

It is amazing to think about what the simple act of wanting a cup of coffee can do.  I wonder what would happen, if people felt as safe in Church as it is clear people do at Seven Stars?

2 Comments

Filed under Everyday Ministry

2 responses to “Ministry of the Coffee Shop

  1. Kaytee

    I love this. I think too often it is easy to relegate the most important forms of community, spirituality and/or opportunities of growth to very specific, often structured spaces (churches, schools, etc) and while there certainly are opportunities personal growth and connection in those spaces, we forget to be open to them in our every day life–especially in the hustle and bustle of our daily routines. I am still struck by your closing question “I wonder what would happen, if people felt as safe in Church as it is clear people do at Seven Stars?” and I wonder, too, what would happen if people felt as open to or sought out spiritual growth opportunities intentionally in daily lives, like while enjoying Seven Stars amazing lattes 🙂 I think there is so much room for bridging gaps across religions and people in community spaces that I hope folks will be inspired to accept those opportunities to sit with strangers, something I know I don’t often do, or start a conversation with the folks around them. I’m inspired by your examples and experiences

  2. Kit

    So glad you posted this. I, too, tend to have such experiences–mine largely at the brewpub where I hang pretty regularly, and just about any time I eat alone, sitting at the bar in a local restaurant. For me, it is likely more obvious because I am often out in my collar, but I am always surprised in the number of folks who want to talk about life, faith, and God with a stranger over a beer.

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