Garden Diary

Friday, February 24, 2006

After Church Coffees

Catholic parishes are not known for hosting after Church coffee hours, although the two parishes I usually go to, Holy Trinity in Boston's South End and St. Athanasius in West Roxbury, both host coffee hours.

The social benefit of the coffee hour is obvious. But does it serve any evangelical purpose?

I think so. Particularly when we have evening services, which attract more non-parishoners, the coffee hour (well, it's more of a sherry hour in the evening, but heck, it is an Anglican use parish) gives the excuse to pause and converse, but also the chance to meet new people and give people the opportunity to ask questions. We're urged in Scripture to ever be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and it certainly doesn't hurt to create situations where that reason might be inquired into.

The community-building afforded by a coffee hour is also more than social. It is a time when we learn of the burdens our fellow parishoners which we can then help bear, at the least in prayer, and when we learn of their joys, which we can lift up as well.

While some churches may find the logistics of putting on a coffee hour difficult, such as having no facility other than the church building, or offering back-to-back Masses all morning long on a Sunday, there are many more that will not have these kind of roadblocks, but instead just need to get going.

What's a good way to start? I think the following formula will help:

1. Have a sexton or other person actually prepare the coffee each week. Some people find percolators difficult or just out of their experience.

2. Buy decent coffee!

3. Have another person be in charge of the cups, napkins, plates, etc. Multiple people in charge will likely result in shortages.

4. Have a rotating schedule of people to bring something to eat and drink (such as juice and cream for the coffee). If it is a large parish, have two or more families scheduled each week.

5. Commit to a regular, weekly schedule. If coffee hours are once a month, or on moving dates, people won't know about it, especially new comers.

6. At coffee hour, look for new comers and invite them into conversation. Don't keep to the same groups of people. This isn't high school--no cliques!

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