Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cup o’ Joe…

Contrary to popular myth, not all Christians drink coffee, though I don’t understand you non-caffeinated rebels. As many learned after an unexpected “Starbucks Incident” in the pulpit the Sunday after Easter (thanks again Lorn!), I drink coffee, but not everyone’s like me. Thank the good Lord. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that n’er a Fellowship Hour is complete until the coffee pot is hot and ready, to wash away the post-sermon blues, according to legend. Indeed, the other day, we forgot to plug it in until after service. Oops. Tension was thick to the point of eruption until that carafe o’ coffee was dripping into our mugs (or Styrofoam cups, as it were; alas, the eco-greenie in me still weeps a bit that fact). Of course, it’s possible I misunderstood the situation, and only I felt tense, while y’all calmly waited. Have I mentioned I’ve been recently pondering a reduction in my coffee consumption?

The problem is it’s soooo easy to get!On my way to church, there’re umpteen coffee houses and drive-through java huts. One closed recently, and then a new one popped up (a stand-alone, risk-it-all small business venture, so I have to support them with frequent business, obviously). Grocery stores now have entire rows dedicated to this Breathtaking Bean. Bob Brown gave me a Newsweek article awhile back, which claimed that coffee is the second-highest priced commodity traded openly in the world (behind oil). It’s big business, and it’s everywhere.

It’s even at church, beyond Fellowship Hour! As you know, we have a stand in the Welcome Center to sell four different kinds of beans, which has become the exclusive supplier of the Isner household. Even you non-coffee Christians got in on the act, and now we sell tea (please let me know if ever there’s a coffee blend, or tea style you want, and we’ll order it!). The reason we do this, of course, is many fold- convenience for the pastor, quality product at low prices, proceeds go to a Week of Compassion poverty reduction fund, all products are fair trade certified. You could say we’ve created a coffee/tea ministry!

But why describe coffee buying as a ministry!? Well, for the reasons I just articulated. 5% of each purchase made through our coffee/tea store aids poor folk. Likewise, because it’s all fair-trade, we’re contributing to the economic well-being of small farming communities. Of course, it’s not perfect. That same article Bob gave me highlights how fair-trade coffee (i.e. coffee purchased directly from small farmers, at higher prices, to help reduce debt and poverty) is just a 7% drop in the great big bucket of worldwide coffee sales. And fair-trade farmers often still live at subsistence level, though less tenuously than they would otherwise. Still, if I’m going to buy coffee (and I’m going to buy coffee!), I’d like what little I contribute to make some positive difference in another’s life. And making a positive difference in another’s life is one way of saying ‘ministry.’

In fact, a few weeks back, one of our members decided we could even use Fellowship Hour to practice ministry to poor farmers. So this member purchased two cases of “Fellowship Blend” coffee from our fair-trade supplier- one decaf, one caf- which is now used to fill our Sunday demand. Perhaps you noticed our Sunday coffee quality has shot way up, and that’s why! This member also purchased fair-trade tea, so you non-coffee Christians could have ministry-based beverage options too. And the goal, of course, wasn’t to do this once, but to get a ball rolling…

So will you consider contributing to our coffee/tea ministry? If you want to offset the cost of our next case of “Fellowship Blend” coffee/tea, let me know. Or put whatever you’d normally spend on Folgers in the Offering plate, labeled coffee. Or find the cost of a case on the sheets next to our display stand, and slip a check under my door. Also, consider purchasing your next coffee bag(s), tea box(es) or chocolate bar(s) through the church. That way, we can tell friends, “Our church even does ministry through beverages!” And I’ll keep working on cutting back…

Grace and Peace,

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