A Cup of Community

This article was recently published on the new House2House Magazine website, which was a huge honour for me. I highly recommend you check out the articles by fabulous writers such as Neil Cole, Frank Viola, Josh Lawson, Miguel Labrador, Felicity Dale, Ken Eastburn and many more

teapot & cup

I am a tea drinker.

There, I said it.

These days it’s ever so much cooler to be a coffee drinker. Maybe coffee drinkers have more fun. After all, they get all the fancy coffee houses and luxurious looking, froth-topped bowls with pretty chocolate sprinkles on top. When we tea-drinkers go to a café, we choke at being charged extortionate prices for a bag of leaves to be dunked a few times in hot water, with a squirt of milk. We just don’t get good value for our money. No handsome baristas lingering at the chrome-plated espresso machine, carefully teasing the bubbles into all the right places. No noticeable caffeine hit raising the alertness, speeding the heart-rate.  Just hot water, milk and a tea-bag. Not worth paying more than 50c for, in my opinion.

But in my mind, we tea-drinkers have the best deal. When I say tea-drinking, I’m not talking about the actual beverage in my cup – I am talking about the glorious ritual of sitting down with a cuppa and a friend, and drinking and talking and connecting deeply, my fingers clasped around a hot mug of relational happiness. I’m talking about eye-contact, lots of eye-contact. And cookies to help wash the tea down (or is it the other way around?). I’m talking about catching up on a year of news – sometimes more – with an old friend. I’m talking about laughing and sharing and reminiscing while the children run around the house and the washing goes undone. I’m talking about getting to know a newcomer to the area and finding out about her background, her culture, the family and connections she has left behind. I’m talking about softly weeping with a friend as she uncovers the deep struggles, the unhealed hurts of life, revealing the true face behind the mask.

There’s a line in the 1981 movie, “Chariots of Fire”, where Eric Liddell says; “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Can you see where I’m heading with this? You see, Liddell, who was often called the “Flying Scotsman” for his legendary speed, knew what it felt like to live out his design. He celebrated in the strength God had given him, embraced it, and lived it to the full – for God’s glory. In the same way, I know I’m good at what I do. I know that when I drink tea with other women, God (through me) touches their lives in powerful ways. I hope you’ll overlook my arrogance, but I’m willing to go all the way and say; “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me good at tea-drinking. And when I drink tea with friends, I feel His pleasure.”

With great power comes great responsibility. When you have mad skills like mine, you should put them to work. This year, I’m exercising my tea-drinking ability by starting up a weekly morning tea to welcome newcomers into community. There are women in my area who are hurting badly. Some have left family and friends overseas, and are finding it painful to break into a new neighbourhood, a new culture – even a new language. Others are just struggling because life is hard. You don’t have to look hard to find sorrow, loneliness and isolation all around you, no matter where you live – in cities, suburbs and towns everywhere. This is where the teacup (or even the coffee mug) becomes so very powerful. When you get a bunch of women together in a room and provide hot drinks, you don’t have to teach us what to do – we do it naturally. We speak, and listen, and get to know one another, and empathise, and connect. The ritual creates a space to slow down, share food and drink, share our stories, share our lives. We laugh together, learn together, and sometimes even cry together. We minister to one another. We create community.

The beauty of this group is the discipleship that’s quietly taking place. We have Buddhists, Hindus, atheists – and Christians – learning how to follow Jesus’ commands to “love your neighbour”. People are gaining confidence to connect with others from different backgrounds. Relationships are growing stronger. God is using conversations for his purposes. And all because we are intentionally gathering around an everyday, commonplace ritual.

Maybe you’re not a tea drinker like me. Maybe you’re an exclusive coffee drinker (luckily, I believe in cross-cultural friendships). Maybe your spiritual gift has nothing to do with drinking hot beverages. God has given you a super-power of your own, and when you use it, you will feel his pleasure. Look for it, find it, nurture it, celebrate it, and find a space to put it to work for his glory.

And don’t forget to pop the kettle on next time I’m in the area.

7 thoughts on “A Cup of Community

  1. Relationship, intimate connection – that’s what it’s about. Knowing who we are and then being; embracing others and letting them ‘be’.

    I’ve always loved that quote, because it conveyed the understanding that Father created us as a complete package, not just the ‘spiritual’ bits. Just living with each other; welcoming, recognising Him in every moment, makes everything we do such joy. We feel His pleasure.

    I yearn for the simplicity, the ‘rightness’ of Kingdom living.

  2. Rita, thank you so much for sharing this letter it very much resonates and is exactly what I have been thinking about doing!!!
    love Kim

  3. Loved the article! You hit on something interesting that I’ve been “sipping on” for a bit now: the ritual of tea. As an American, specifically the “Southern” flavor, I don’t have the advantage of a rich tea history. I grew up with (heavily) sweetened iced tea, abandoned it in middle school, and then picked up hot tea in the last decade. Since then I’ve become somewhat of a tea aficionado among my peers (though I’m still a novice by most standards). Over the past few years, hot drinks and warm conversation have been an integral part of our weekly gathering (we call ourselves a “collaborative community of faith”). But this year I’ve been studying tea rituals. The Japanese seem to have the most elaborate rituals. And I’ve been privately experimenting with this idea of a tea ritual which taps into theological symbolism. Seems to me our Christian forefathers excelled at using everyday routines to reinforce Biblical truths through symbolic action. Can it be done with tea? Call it a “t(h)eaology” I suppose. Anyway, thanks again for the article. May your cuppa never run dry or cold. 😉

    • “Tea-ology” – love it!!! I especially like the sound of “hot drinks and warm conversation” in your collaborative community of faith.

      Blessings,

      – Kathleen

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