What’s your favorite part of church? Not just the service, but being part of a church? For my family, being part of a community that welcomes strangers is a favorite. Coffee hour is the time when we welcome the stranger. After communion, it’s a quick three steps and down the hall to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I love the liturgy – that’s my favorite part of church. I also need conversation and community, and I get that at coffee hour.
I started hosting coffee hours as part of a team at Trinity Concord in Massachusetts 10 years ago. Staying in the service until dismissal and the choir exit was tough for my younger daughter. The team leader for the second Sunday noticed and asked her to come help set up. Pat loved the early exit and being surrounded by people who appreciated her. I joined the team and started baking each month with 5 other people, and only 2-3 needed to bring something, and the others would set up/clean. The team was led by a choir mom and she had a coffee cake recipe that was the gold standard. People lingered and chatted for a while, and we met many friends there.
When we came to A&HT, I looked for a coffee hour team. I found out that signups are ad hoc with no teams. I experienced some really fancy coffee hours and some really modest ones. More than a year ago, Pat and I got hooked on the Great British Bake Off and there was no way we could eat all the goodies she baked. I took the plunge and signed up to host to provide some consistency. I could not find anyone who wanted to join my team, so my team became Pat and Jeb at first. I’d like to share some of the insights I’ve gained:
- I still prefer baking and talking to setting up and cleaning up. Jeb and Pat left early every time to set up. Cleaning up attracted a lot of helpers, which I appreciated.
- There are 4-5 kids who want to help with set up every week. At first, we thought they were there for early food, and then we started asking them to make lemonade, bring out food and mugs, and they were really excited to help. I love this!
- Coffee hour is important to the core of our church. At first I thought it was to welcome newcomers and I am wrong. It’s for friends who are busy and have no other time to connect and wish each other well. Sometimes those friends happen to be newcomers and strangers. The Holy Spirit is there.
- I will never be able to make everyone happy, and that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to offer hospitality and hold space.
Remember how Harry Potter used chocolate to recover from dementors? Coffee hour is community and chocolate and will lift your spirit to stay in communion. God is with us in the ritual and in our connection with each other. We need coffee hour now more than ever. When Pat goes to school this fall, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about hosting. Hopefully I can find some people who want to team up on the second Sundays and carry on. Would you? Please let me know.
Interested in hosting and still worried about signing up? Here is more encouragement:
- Reimbursement is available.
- Count on the kids in the congregation to help as well as other people who will clean up.
- Look in the lemonade hour cupboard for all kinds of prepackaged peanut and egg free goodies.
- Jean can make loaves and fishes happen.
- If you have to bail out on your sign up at the last minute, there are people to pitch in.
- There might be criticism for something; there always is. Reframe it to mean that someone cares enough to share feedback.
- Accept the appreciation from others. You are a beloved child of God.
- Christ offers forgiveness for everyone, everywhere – COFFEE.