Friday, March 12, 2010

Tetrad : Coffee, Anyone?

What happens when you replace the communion table with the coffee table, as the normative table around which the congregation gathers?

It shapes the church community. But in what ways?


Coffee enhances our ability to move between spaces. We drink it in cafes, ‘third spaces’ between home and work (unless, of course, you happen to work in a coffee house!). The opportunity to drink coffee before and after the service, usually held in a space between the world outside and the worship space, helps us to transition between those spaces.

In this sense, coffee enhances accessibility – as does the displacement of the communion table where communion is an unfamiliar liturgical event.

However, these changes do not simply enhance accessibility into a community; they change the nature of the community access is gained to...


The person of Jesus as the one who unites us is made obsolete. We are united, instead, by a shared social activity. The act of eucharist is both thankful remembrance of what Jesus did when his body was broken for us, and the re-membering or putting-together of his broken body, the church. This body-bread is offered to God, broken and given to the crowds – sent out into the world – and also gathered-up again, in order to be blessed and broken and given out once more. We recognise our need to be offered to God and our need to be given to the world, just as Jesus offered himself up to God for the world.

Where the coffee table replaces the communion table as the normative table around which we gather, both our need to be offered to God and our need to be given to the world become obsolete. Rather than being shaped by Jesus we are shaped – albeit indirectly, oh-so-subtly – by St Arbucks and other coffee-empire logos.


The coffee table retrieves the pause lost in a driven world: I do not have to rush off. It promises rest, refreshment. Just as Jesus offers rest for the weary, and streams of living water. There is nothing wrong with coffee per se, but when it becomes the normative table – the act that shapes us – it holds out a poor substitute for Jesus, an idol that shapes and justifies me-time.

Flips into

A barrier into the community, a picket-line that must be crossed, where to get to the coffee that enhances accessibility the visitor must wait until the regulars have had their fill.

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