Here’s a peek into what happens during my Community Office Hours.
The sights and sounds remain mostly the same week to week, it’s only the people who change. Behind the coffee bar are the baristas I have come to know by name, but only a few remember me week to week. There are the regular customers whom I observe come to the shop every Wednesday like clock work to get their coffee fix.
Some Wednesdays I talk to almost nobody, unnoticed by the hurried crowd, and other weeks I have deep and meaningful conversations with strangers and parishioners alike. What normally starts the conversation with the strangers is my clergy collar. I haven’t worn it as much in the warmer months but with fall temperatures soon upon us, I will wear it every week again soon.
The most meaningful encounters to me are with people who are hurting. My collar often prompts people to share deep hurt with me that I don’t expect most of us would share with a total stranger. I have heard the tales of a person who was once involved with church but after years of fighting in the church decided to be atheist. Another confessed the addiction they struggled with, and a how a chance encounter with God saved them from total ruin. I have had people share the way that church has created deep pain in their life, and how they will never come back to the church.
You may read this and think that my Community Coffee Hours are the most depressing time on the planet, but to me they are not. Instead, I find encounters with people who have sworn off God, to be holy and merciful moments. In these encounters people share their deep pain and I get to offer them back grace, mercy, kindness, and love. I don’t know what people walk away feeling after those talks with me, but I hope they feel a release, a release that allows them to draw closer to God, and that our time might break down a wall so God can step in and remind them they are beloved.
I walk away recognizing the gift and privilege it is to listen to others’ pain, and I am forever thankful for the opportunity to welcome those conversations week after week.