“Do you want to meet at The Cup?”
“Mom, can we go to Cup of Joe, just you and me after school?”
“Let’s go for a ride and stop by The Cup.”
These are phrases that have been repeated almost weekly in my house. It has been said that everyone needs a third place. You have your home, your work and then you need a third place. A place that is set apart that is where your story is told. I would love for everyone to say that their third place is their church, but since I work at my church, I feel I need another place and for me it is our local coffee-house.
It resides on a historic corner of our lovely downtown, right next to the river. bicyclists ride the trails and park their bikes on the corner and sit and visit. College students hunch over books and laptops. Mothers take their children in for a cup of chocolate milk with whip cream and sprinkles, and children run over and pull out a game of Sorry or Uno. Girlfriends meet and laugh and cry and share what’s going on with their mothers, and their children and their marriages. Boyfriends take their new girlfriends in for a cup and to share a cookie. People stop by for a quick cup on the way to work, or the way out of town. I have stopped in after a funeral, when I am deep grief and gotten a vanilla latte with extra whip. I have stopped by after yoga, in complete relaxation and gotten a cup of green tea to replenish my energy. I have written more sermons, heard more life stories, held more hands, prayed more prayers, and seen more life there than anywhere else. I have snuck out of the house after the kids are down for the night and stopped in to hear a bluegrass band and to watch hippie teenagers with piercings and tattoos and long flowy skirts sing “I will fly away,” like it was Sunday morning.
My coffee-house has always been a place where I have seen why communities are sacred. We need each other, you see. We need to see that all people are just people, with the days of ahead of us and agendas and responsibilities and worries are all different but universally the same. We need to see that we all carry a measure of loneliness and we need each other to see that we are not invisible. That we are seen and recognized. Communities are sacred because the Holy Spirit flies around like a great colorful bird and wisps through our conversations and blesses our togetherness.
The coffee-house begins with the premise of belonging. That there is something there for everyone. It has been argued that if the church is to survive it needs to begin with the vision that everyone shares in a feeling of belonging. There are norms and values in a coffee-house. The behavioral norms are, you don’t hog your space. You share a table. You clean up after yourself. You are tolerant of other people and you don’t abuse the space. These are behaviors help everyone belong. Lastly, you can’t be grumpy when you stop in for a cup, and you certainly leave crabby. It’s a place to have some fun, to take Sabbath and to enjoy each other. Sounds to me like a great vision for the church.
“Come in! We are so glad you here! Sit. Rest. Tell me about your life. Laugh. Have a cup of Joe.”