One of the joys of cooler weather and returning to the sanctuary for worship is the return of hot coffee to the coffee hour! Getting a caf-feine fix and catching up with friends is a pleasure, but coffee hour is also an anxious time for many. Visitors wonder if anyone will ap-proach them, and often spend long, awkward minutes at the food table. Shy or modest people (most Summiteers) worry they won't be able to keep a conversation going with someone new. Folks with aging memories, including the pastor, wonder how many embar-rassing moments they'll have as they ask the names of people who have been members for decades. People responsible for lining up greeters or coffee hour hosts tense as they pre-pare to "recruit" people at the only time they're likely to see them during the week. And everyone wonders, when they see someone approach (especially if it's the pastor) whether they'll be asked to give up yet another evening for a committee meeting.
Coffee hour becomes a time of anxiety when we forget its purpose: to be the community Christ calls us to be, warmly welcoming new people in our midst, and tenderly caring for one another. It's a time to scan the room for someone we don't know, to introduce our-selves, to say how glad we are they're here, and to ask: What brought you to Summit? Are you from the area? What do you like to do when you're not at church? And what about those Phillies? * It's a time to express concern to people who have been absent for a while, or who have been on our prayer list. It's a time to ask children what they did in Sun-day School, and to talk with youth about their soccer team or new school. It's a time to say Happy Birthday. It's a time to offer the forgiveness that Christ offers us, when we're asked our name by someone we've talked to many times before.
But what about business? We all yearn for a business-free coffee hour, but anyone who's had to line up volunteers knows how hard it is to do that during the week, especially in this day of voice and e-mail screening. So this is my suggestion: when you enter the fellow-ship hall, after you've welcomed any visitors, go to a "recruiter" (or two)** and offer to host, cook, greet, or read. You will bring joy and gladness to their hearts, and then you'll be free to grab coffee and a cookie and welcome our Lord aright, as Christ comes to us in the face of neighbor, stranger, or friend.
Grace and Peace,
*Questions generated by church officers at the 2011 Leadership Retreat.