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Hallo again to all.

Carmen Miranda at coffee hourThat institution so dearly beloved of Anglicans around the world, coffee hour, is mentioned nowhere in any rubric, nor in the Constitution and Canons of any of our provinces, nor even in diocesan protocols or parish by-laws. It is nevertheless almost ubiquitous in whatever form or name it takes. There is something meet and right about the community who have gathered to fulfil the Lord's command of worship coming together for fellowship when the service has ended. The jokes about the Eighth Sacrament are only funny because of our seriousness about refreshment at church.

The diversity of accompaniments for this post-worship practice are as wide as the wideness of God's mercy. There was the West Indian parish where the scent of curry goat and rice crept into the sanctuary before the incense had dissipated. There was the church in New York where every week was a feast of cold ham, mustards, brie, cornichons, pâté, grapes, grissini, and salted almonds. There was the church in northern Saskatchewan where we worried about the drought while sipping tea from paper cups and eating Fig Newtons. There are the handful of churches in BosWash where one still gets the option of a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary after Mass. There is the church on Margaret Street where worshippers repair to the pub in the basement for a traditional English breakfast at a nominal fee. Coffee hour food becomes a way in which we nourish our bodies to serve the God we worship—whose body we have just received and prayed to become in the world.

For all of its goodness, the social hour can become a minefield of anxiety for some of us. Will that person remind me that I haven't returned an email he sent me yesterday? Is that one cross because of the way my children behaved during the service? Will we have to continue that subcommittee meeting again? Or worse, the personal questions: you weren't here last week—everything OK? How old are you? Are you married? What do you do for work? What are you doing after high school/college/graduate school? When are you going to have more kids?

The Unitarian Universalist Association (we think it's our first occasion to mention that august body on Anglicans Online) has worked up this simple chart to open eyes about the awkwardness of post-worship social interactions, aimed specifically at addressing questions young adults may find off-putting, but really useful for persons of any age.* We wonder if it might be adapted widely and well for use by Anglican Christians in order to help us think about the truly evangelical moment of coffee hour. It is the time when a newcomer will gain some sense of how the people of a community welcome her; the sense of being categorized, evaluated, sorted, put on the spot, is not the fruit of a caring welcome. All of the demographic details come out over time in healthy communication in any case. One simply doesn't have to lead with them.

There are a myriad of things to say to someone at coffee hour that may contribute to more organic conversational welcomes. How did you find us? Where's home for you? I'm Richard. Wasn't the choir amazing? What did you think of the sermon? Here's someone you should meet. Did you walk or drive this morning? Have you seen the angels in the narthex? Here's my card; fire me a note if you'd like to have coffee some time. I'm sure I've seen you before, but I'm terrible with names. Did you know this was the largest church building in North America when it was built? What does this week look like for you? Do you have any plans for Christmas?

The conversation that opens for a newcomer—rather than commodifying or classifying him or her—is the conversation that allows new persons to reveal or ask as much as they wish. It becomes an invitation to learn about one another, to begin to have Christian concern about one another's lives and well-being, to create an opening for the beginning of the beloved community to which Christ himself calls us. Even at coffee hour.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

19 November 2017

*N.B. also the more whimsical Shy Single Christian's Guide to Coffee Hour.

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