Drinking Tea as Ministry

There was this great Christmas episode of “The Vicar of Dibley” in which everyone in the parish feels obliged to invite Geraldine, the Vicar, to Christmas dinner. Geraldine, not wishing to offend any of her parishioners, feels obliged to accept all the invitations, and thus ends up having three or four Christmas dinners. It’s very funny, but it also playfully highlights an area of ministry that I hadn’t thought about much until i entered professional ministry.

Which brings me to the tea. I drank a lot of tea today. And coffee. A LOT of tea and coffee.  I had a cup of tea with breakfast. Well, that’s not unusual. And then I met a colleague from seminary for…coffee.  We sat and talked for a long time. I had a large chai tea and then a big old cup of decaf. And of course, we had a lot of good conversation. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, and it was great to catch up.

From there, I met with a support group of colleagues, and after our main meeting we went to lunch. And I had iced tea. Because I do that when I have lunch. More conversation. More connections. More tea.

Directly from that restaurant, I went to another restaurant to meet a parishioner. The point of that meeting was to chat. I wasn’t hungry. I had tea.

If you’re familiar with “The Big Bang Theory“, you might be familiar with Sheldon’s insistence that anyone who is having a crisis be offered a hot beverage. It’s an expected social convention, Sheldon always explains. There’s some truth in this. We bond over food and drink.

It takes time to drink a cup of tea or coffee. So when we sit down and have a cup, it says, “I’m not about to rush off,” for one thing.

In Ethiopian and Eritrean culture, there is a coffee ceremony. It’s a special thing to be invited, and once it starts, you don’t leave early. If you accept the first round, you stay for all the rounds. It’s long. The hostess roasts the beans in front of the guests, which takes some time. Then she cooks the coffee. Then everyone drinks the first round (and has some popcorn – there’s popcorn with this). Then there’s always a second round, and often a third. Occasionally there’s even a fourth round. This can go on for a few hours. It’s all about the companionship.

In ministry, it’s important to take time with people. It’s important to be fully present. Coffee and tea are good for that. There was a lot of tea and coffee today. It was a good day.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.

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