Churches and Coffeehouses

Dwight, over at Center for Renewal had a cool entry on the coffeehouse phenomena, where he noted the activity, and wished for the same at Maundy Thursday services. It got me thinking quite a bit, and rather than hog his comments, here goes a few thoughts.

The allure of the coffee house.

What the coffee house provides beyond coffee and free wifi is the following:

  • A calm, and reflective environment, ideal for creative work.
  • A sense of social connectivity, in an ultra non-threatening environment. No interaction is assumed, but casual interaction may occur. This human desire for connectedness, but not interaction per se is fascinating.
  • Overtime, relationships may or may not build. Being that’s not really a primary goal, coffeehouses foster a very organic relationship building process. Its vastly different than the traditional restaurant that has a coffee clique crowd so to speak. I don’t know whether this is intentional by design, but it might be. Ie, the tables for 2-4, the sofas, comfy chairs, free wifi, etc, encourage folks to linger and as such purchase more $5 coffees. A restaurant on the other hand, wants to get people in and out, and at $0.50 for coffee it makes sense. (not a coffee drinker so unsure on prices, but do cherish the coffee house environment for work and meetings)
  • There is much collective wisdom. If one is bold enough to ask, many will step in to help, but its often facilitated more so by location tools like brightkite/twitter than 3d. Ie, I will jump in to help anyone on twitter, offer opinions, comments, etc. I might do so in 3d, but if not directly asked, I wont.

The church is sort of there, but not quite:

  • The church has collective wisdom, but few will ask.
  • The church has the capability of organic relationship building, but often its forced, or worse clique driven.
  • The church has a problem with the threatening aspect. Ie how many of us would pull up to an unknown church and go and crash them? (when I traveled a lot, I did this, and its cool, but its a seemingly bold thing to do, and failure is common, ie doors locked, no one around). Imagine what would happen, if churches opened their doors, physically, as well as spiritually?
  • The church often forces interaction, rather than a passive; ok if you do, fine if you dont, approach at the coffee house.
  • Many sanctuaries are ideal for contemplation. Back in my CCM days, egads, the amount of writing, contemplation, and I must admit naps also  occurred in the upper balcony in churches all across the US. The thing is… it would sort of be odd, to grab a laptop and hang out in the upper balcony, even if it had free wifi, also the nature of a sanctuary doesnt align itself with collaboration either.  As a traveling musician, despite a janitor, or pastor being surprised to see one or more of us sleeping in a balcony pew, knowing our travel schedule, it was seemed to be acceptable to them, albeit likely a bit weird.
  • Fellowship halls, are often seriously lacking in environment, ie they foster eating together, not so much socializing. In many cases they are pretty sterile, and the existence of sofas, reading chairs, or tables for 2 or 3 is exceedingly rare.

2 thoughts on “Churches and Coffeehouses

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