The New Evangelization enters the coffee scene.
As Christians, we’ve always been called to go out into the public square and evangelize. We take our cue from St. Paul who so famously defended the Christian God in the Areopagus. Today, we bring Christ with us when we enter public debate, when we lead by example in our professional lives and, yes, even when we get our daily cup of Joe.
The coffee shop where I go to write a couple of times a week is appropriately named “Crossroads.” It is in many ways a microcosm of our society today. I regularly run into people on business calls, old friends chatting, men reading random books on spirituality and children getting an ice cream after school. At times, I’ll interact with people as we talk about today’s coffee offering, the weather or traffic, the school across the street, someone’s pet, pregnancies or a new baby. These encounters are fleeting, but are unique because they are between people who might not normally have the opportunity to converse.
Along with the coffee and the morning rush of people, however, is another coffee house staple—a social agenda. It is not only Starbucks that has expressed public support for gay marriage; almost every coffee house I frequent has a rainbow flag or sticker posted. Additionally, I run across free literature on atheist groups, new age art and a laissez-faire attitude towards morality.
This pervasive post-Christian (or even anti-Christian) environment is disheartening, especially when you consider just how much I love coffee. Crossroads-like coffee shops could be producing a lot of fruit, even a place to encounter Christ through events and other people.
You may share in my joy, then, in discovering that I’m not alone in thinking that coffee shops are ripe for evangelization. I just heard that a new coffee shop will be opening in historic Leesburg, Virginia: Trinity Café. An outreach of the John Paul II Fellowship, Trinity House’s mission states: “At the intersection of faith and culture, we provide warm hospitality and a delicious, moderately-priced menu of coffee, sandwiches, salads, soups, baked goods, wine and beer.”
Along with the obligatory coffee, Trinity Café will be hosting classes, events, movie-nights and other cultural offerings. It sounds like many other coffee shops, until you look a little deeper at their calendar and realize that there will be a talk on beauty, a class in iconography and a St. Nick’s Day celebration for kids. Trinity Café is bringing the beauty of the Catholic faith to a place where anyone might casually encounter it and desire to learn more.
Equally exciting is the work of Andrew Whaley, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College, who is dedicated to the mission of bringing what he calls “spiritual, intellectual, and aesthetic” wonder to coffee shops and other community spaces around the country. The founder of Calix Consulting, Whaley hopes that “these will be places, comfortable and eclectic, where conversation is the primary activity, books and ideas are in abundance, and where people can experience the True, the Good, and the Beautiful by experiencing God in each other on a daily basis.”
Mr. Whaley is currently developing a prototype in Denver, Colorado, and there are already plans for another location nearby. His emphasis on community echoes the Church’s call to be Christ to one another.
If you aren’t near Virginia or Colorado and you don’t have it in your heart to open your own evangelization café, what can you do?
A couple of ideas come to mind:
My own faith-sharing community group recently discussed moving our weekly meetings to the local coffee house. Why not add something substantial to the coffee house ethos, perhaps provoking interesting conversations with others or even attracting a few new members?