Here’s my latest In Good Faith column for the Hingham Journal. It addresses two of my favorite things: coffee and more coffee.
By the Rev. Tim Schenck
I’ve become a coffee snob. I didn’t start out this way. In fact, I didn’t start drinking coffee until later in life. Miraculously, in retrospect, I made it through college, the Army, work as a political campaign manager, a coffee-drinking wife, seminary, and one child. The combination of two children under the age of two and full-time work in parish ministry, however, put me over the edge. It’s not as if I’m addicted now or anything. Really. I just can’t imagine getting the day kick-started without a steaming mug of coffee. Or making it through the afternoon for that matter.
What sent me down the road to coffee snobbery was my favorite coffee shop in Tarrytown, New York, near where I lived before moving to Hingham last summer. Not only do they roast all of their own beans on site (so you leave smelling great); not only do they offer free Wi-Fi; not only do they give free refills; they are also dog-friendly. Meaning that for years I brought Delilah, my yellow lab/husky mix, with me to write my sermons every Thursday morning. My Thursday morning sermon-writing ritual still revolves around coffee. Or, more accurately, caffeine. Some church-goers need coffee to stay awake during the sermon. I need coffee to write the sermon. I’m not sure why this is, but I wouldn’t dare subject anyone to non-caffeinated sermon preparation. The problem is that once you start drinking freshly roasted and brewed coffee from all over the world, Dunkin’ Donuts just doesn’t cut it.
I still bemoan the loss of Coffee Labs Roasters – and the community of writers, poets, and dog owners that had become something of a second family. But I was delighted one summer afternoon to run into the Redeye Roasters truck at the Hingham Farmer’s Market held at the bathing beach. Sure, I wish he had an actual coffee shop but Bob Weeks’ coffee is outstanding, even to a coffee snob. So I started stalking him. Every Saturday afternoon the family and I would head down to the Farmer’s Market. I could have cared less about the fresh produce, however. I was there for a cup of freshly brewed Guatemalan or Ethiopian coffee.
Eventually I got to know Bob and learned about his background as an advertising executive who gave it up in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. We’re both evangelists in a way; he spreads the message of good coffee and I share the Good News of Jesus. But the real coup came when I approached him about the possibility of providing coffee for the church. I was hoping he might cut us a deal but Bob took this further than I ever imagined. Since last fall he has been donating freshly roasted beans to the church. He even helped me find and purchase a slightly used industrial-sized grinder which I now consider one of the church’s most prized and holy relics. Having fresh beans without an adequate grinder would be like having the Bible without the ability to read.
One of the universal problems with churches is that they’re notorious for serving bad coffee. You know, the Folgers brewed in huge metal urns from the 1970’s served in Styrofoam cups in a church basement. But it doesn’t have to be this way. And I believe that bad coffee is like bad karma – who needs it? And why shouldn’t we serve good coffee? After all, the church is God’s house not Maxwell’s House.
It’s partly about the coffee but it’s also about the community. The method to my coffee madness is that when people drink good coffee they tend to linger after church and engage in deeper conversation. And when people stay longer and converse more, the bonds of Christian community are strengthened. I’m not saying that Jesus’ original disciples formed a glorified coffee klatch but just as Jesus continually drew people into community, coffee can help do the same.
Thanks to Bob and his Redeye Roasters coffee, I’m moving toward my goal of having the best coffee hour in all of Christendom. Now if I could just get someone to donate that $8,000 industrial-sized cappuccino maker…