catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 16 :: 2006.09.08 — 2006.09.22


Coffee community

My favorite place for coffee while in seminary was Kaldi’s Coffeehouse (the original, not the new franchises that look just like Panera Bread).  During my four years of seminary I spent more hours in Kaldi’s than in class.  In many ways Kaldi’s became my second home.  Since graduating in May, my wife and I have had a chaotic summer as we are preparing to go overseas for three months.  This chaos has had been felt in several ways, but one of the most poignant for me is the very little amount of time I have been able to spend at Kaldi’s.  I miss the friends, acquaintances, and regular strangers I’ve come to know by being a part of that community.

For people who don’t frequent them, it may sound strange to refer to a coffee shop as a community, but this is precisely what they are.  A coffee shop becomes something of a social hub for the various people who, for some reason, claim it as their shop.  When people become regular customers at good shops they are treated as more than just customers, they become friends and welcome faces.  Frequent any place long enough and you will get to know the people who work there as well as other regular customers.  When this happens a coffee shop is transformed from a venue for consumerism with nameless employees and fellow consumers into a place where real people, with their own joys and struggles, interact with each other on a daily basis.  In this way a coffee shop becomes a community, a place where a person feels that he or she belongs.  This is significant because in our broken and fragmented world these places of belonging are often hard to find.

There are relatively few places where I feel comfortable and where I feel that I belong but coffee shops tend to be the places I feel most natural.  As a Christian who feels stifled in Christian bubbles, coffee shops are a place of retreat and refreshment where there are all sorts of different people living very different lives.  At my table by the window, next to the door, I am able to watch the comings and goings of these folks, often times engaging in interesting bits of conversations with them.  On a good day at Kaldi’s some of the other regulars I’ve come to know will be there and we discuss what life has brought us that week.  We discuss movies, our taste in humor, new tattoos, failed relationships, the joy and struggle of marriage, finding fulfillment in work, faith, politics, music and more.  In this community there is very little that is off limits.

While not all coffee shops are created equal, this type of community is not limited to Kaldi’s.  I hail from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and my chosen shop whenever I’m back in town is Common Ground.  It has good coffee (the House Blend is my favorite), good atmosphere, and a great Italian sandwich. Common Ground also fits my definition of a coffee shop community.  Since I no longer live in G.R. I don’t get to visit Common Ground often but it’s still easy to spot the regular customers.  Common Ground is home to teenagers, college students, a group of immigrants from northern Africa, white and blue-collar working adults, and elderly retirees. It would be a home to me as well if we were ever to move back to the area.

As I write these words the clock tells me that my wife and I will be boarding a plane bound for New Zealand in about eight hours.  I have a lot of questions about our future and about whether we will find a home in Auckland. I wonder if we will discover a sense of fitted-ness and belonging in the Church, culture, and society. It may seem petty or trivial, but for me a large part of this questioning includes wondering whether I will find a coffee shop to claim as my own.

Travis Scott is a contributing editor to Critique, the journal of Ransom Fellowship.  He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and a former intern at the Francis Schaeffer Institute.  He and his wife Brooke are currently exploring ministry possibilities in New Zealand.

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