Spot, Sweetness 7, Café Aroma, Newport Natural, Opus.
Opus is the latest coffee house in my life. A town is not home until those places that make it feel like home tether us to the earth there. For some people it is the local bank or bakery, the farm stand or grocer, the diner or bar. For me it is the coffee house (café in contemporary parlance).
Churches used to be that kind of place, a place where people gathered and made connections. That still happens but most churches have become congregations of the like-minded and so monochrome that most of those in attendance fit snuggly in the same socio-economic niche. That leaves commercial venues that don’t care what race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation the customer’s money comes from to create a broad and lovely hospitality.
Ironic, isn’t it? The spiritual community derived from the wisdom of a man so hospitable that he violated every social norm of his day in order to gather people around the same meal, now needs to learn from moneychangers how to create such a space.
I confess to a moment of deep professional pride when, in a former church in another city, it was reported that a wealthy scion announced in the most exclusive social club in that town, that he wouldn’t go to that church any more because “now they let anyone in.”
Churches that want to buck the system and become something other than homogeneous will lose members. That is guaranteed. Some of the people in the pews are there because it is more comfortable to be among ‘our own kind’ and when that changes they leave.
We need to be aggressively welcome to everyone but not “for” everyone. If we stand for something in particular, like the social and economic radicality of Jesus for example, some of the people that oppose it will not want to continue. They leave, not because they are not welcome but because they no longer embrace what we stand for and who we stand for.
It goes back to a previous post or two I have written about keeping wider circles of social embrace.
I could not be more opposed to Donald Trump and what he represents, but if I have no significant connection to anyone that does then I will be missing the insight and understanding that can only come from being in relationship with people who seriously disagree with me. At a moment in our history when our culture is moving us into ever more segregated social and public opinion chutes, we need to be subversive and break out.
What happens as we get older and do not exercise and do not stretch? We lose flexibility. The same is true for us mentally and socially. If we are not connected with a diversity of thought and opinion we become more and more brittle. An inelastic mind is a fragile mind, and too many of those in any single family, organization, business, or culture and bad things are bound to happen.
Fortunately, in my new small city, there is more than one café and even though I prefer Opus, I try to circulate in order to remain elastic and feel the differences going on around me. Still, Opus is home.
EDWIN BECK says
A thought just jiggled out based upon your wonderful piece, and it’s actually a question for you, Cam. Have you ever been bothered when attending an RC church that you are not welcome to share in Communion? I mean after all, isn’t this the centerpiece of their worship – the body and blood of JC? I know: they cite “reasons” and “teachings of the Church” and all the rest. These days I am tending toward the teachings of the “Unitarian Mystics” – so the issue, should I be confronted by it at a funeral (we’re rarely invited to weddings, and the funerals are becoming frequent) will not be as annoying as it has been in years past. However, as I mentioned up above, your piece reminded me of the aforementioned issue, and as always: I treasure your thoughts and opinions.
Cam Miller says
Sure, it used to bother me but then I thought about it like a participating in a Buddhist or Hindu ceremony that I do not believe in, and how that dishonors those who are devout. I do not believe in transubstantiation, nor many of the particulars of Roman Catholicism, so I don’t wish to dishonor their beliefs by participating as if I do. On the other hand, there are a number of RC congregations with clergy that welcome me, and then it feels great because I can share in their community with fullness of heart.
I have heard of a church in London that has a public café in the front of the Nave. It is public and right on the street. I am going to see it in January and am excited at the possibilities.
Cam Miller says
I want to hear about that one! Pictures too please. There are some of those, like St. Bart’s, but you have to have just the right location. Trinity in Columbus, O has a restaurant that is packed each day for lunch.
Doreen LaGray says
I truly enjoy your writings and ideas and agree with a great amount of your work. Thanks for sharing it so openly and generously!
If you have not explored it yet, you should research the teachings of Baha’u’llah . I think you will find many ideas that are agreeable and maybe thought provoking.
You could start with http://www.bahai.us
Cam Miller says
Thank you so much for your comment and link. I know of the Baha’i and have great respect for them – one of the great global peace traditions.Thank you. Cam
This is so great. One thing it made me think of was all of my own pieces and parts that I reject…that I don’t allow to come to the table…and how doing that affects my world. I want to always remain accepting and flexible. Thank you for reminding me in your unique way.
Oh, my, how true. We’re so mean to those parts of ourselves. I know better and still I reject them. Thanks for that S.
paul bosco says
Cam. My favorite things about you was your belief that we cannot know exactly what God thinks about contemporary issues. The Bible is truth but not fact. Us sinners have no chance except by God’s grace.
Now you seem so set. Trump is evil. I think Hillary is worse. The embodiment of the seven deadly sins. Why don’t we all write- in a good person? Is there one? Franklin Grahm… Justice Roberts…. jerry seinfelt…..
You’re right for taking me to task, my friend. The truth is I do not know Mr. Trump, only his electronic image. Simple truth is always dangerous and even with Trump the truth is probably not so simple. I am quite certain however, that the things he says that I have pointed to in my posts, are quite awful even on a scale of relativity! Regardless of who he is running against – and you’re right, there is no purity and there are no heroes in this race -he has said things that stir the dark places in the human heart. I do not know what God thinks about him or this situation, I’ve have just said what Cam Miller thinks (for good or for ill). So I will be more nuanced from now on. Thanks for the challenge!