These are the coffee cups after church this morning. When I saw them, the used, dirty, with rings of coffee in the bottom mugs, I thought of the story that they tell. There is a definite theology in these coffee cups.
You see, when we first began preparing for the church plant, we met with a small group of four people, in addition to our family of four. Our pre-launch, core group gatherings occurred in our home around a table and around a meal. We read through the book of Acts (the founding of the Church), ate, prayed, dreamed, and planned. One thing that became very important was the notion of hospitality and sharing of food. Therefore, we decided as we planted Tapestry Church that homemade treats and coffee would be a part of every worship gathering. And so it has been.
We started out with styrofoam and waxed coated paper coffee cups. However, it only took a couple of weeks to realize that these cups were thrown away and that was wasteful, both in terms of money and in matters of stewardship of the earth (especially styrofoam!). Not only did we want to manage our resources well, but we desired to be relevant to the community. Our community is VERY green. There are recycling bins and compost bins everywhere. Community gardens, buying local, using reusable bags, eating local, biking and walking, etc. are the very lifeblood of Stevens Point. Therefore, we decided to use real coffee mugs. We thought about buying some with our church name and logo on them, but that seemed wasteful and unnecessary. Instead, we bought a few inexpensive mugs, but mostly just cleaned out our collective cabinets. This resulted in our eclectic, mismatched, make-do assortment of mugs.
The Parkview mug is from our former church and we even have a couple of Lutheran mugs from a visit to a local ELCA church when we first moved to town. Some people don't care what mug they get, but some people have a favorite that they try to grab each week. As they have been used week in and week out, they have taken a few dings. Notice the minor chips on these below.
They aren't in perfect condition, but they are still useful and still serve their purpose. I think there is a beautiful message of redemption and how God uses us just in the picture of chipped, but purposeful coffee cups. There is a story in the mismatched patterns and sizes of these mugs that combine for one corporate and communal purpose. There is beauty in the diversity.
But the story doesn't end there. In a world that relishes the quick, easy way and embraces things that can be consumed and disposed of, these mugs need care. They have to be washed and packed away each week. Most of the people at church probably don't give a thought to that. Not that they are uncaring, but they probably just take for granted that the various mugs will be clean and set out on the hospitality table each week. When we first started using real cups, I would pack them up, take them home and wash them, and bring them back each week. Somehow, over time, Robin began to take on the responsibility. However, she washes them at the school where we meet.
She washes them in the teachers' lounge, which has no hot water. She has developed a system of using the leftover hot water that we provide for those who want tea. She fills the lounge sink with the hot water, washes, dries, and repacks the coffee cups. Sometimes Robin has another person or two to help her, but most of the time she just quietly slips away to wash the cups alone. Every. Single. Sunday.
She goes about a quiet, simple ministry with no fuss or fanfare. She is not up front leading music or standing at the door greeting people. Robin just meets an important need in a consistent and reliable way. There's some theology in that too.