Words from Our Pastor

Friday, January 25, 2019

Starbucks and Church

Just before turning toward the interstate ramp and my workday one recent morning, I detoured to a nearby Starbucks drive-thru. I remembered I had a gift card from last Christmas with a few bucks left on it, so I dug it out of my wallet.  At the order kiosk I asked for a Tall of the dark blend, extra cream. But could the attendant put in the cream before handing me the coffee? It’s hard to do while driving, and I’ve never met a Starbucks lid that didn’t pop off too easily or drip the moment I turned up the cup to drink. “Sure,” she said.

I wanted something easy to eat, something light. The no-frills treats are never featured on the drive-thru picture board, so again I questioned: 
”Do you have anything plain and light, like bagels?” 
"Oh yes, we have two kinds of bagels, blueberry and sprouted grain."
“I’ll take the spouted grain.” 
“You want cream cheese or butter?” 
“No, just plain.” 
I got my total, drove around to the window, and handed her my gift card. She passed me a coffee a size larger than what I’d ordered, for the same price (because they’d misunderstood and poured a Grande—sweet!). As requested, the cream was in there and the blend was perfect. Then out came the bagel, warm.

Handing back my gift card (which, amazingly, still had a balance), the smiling cashier said, “Have a great morning.” With the bagel bagged and warming my knees as I pulled out, I thought, “This is perfect.”  Strong hot coffee with extra cream (a size larger than I’d ordered), a warm whole-grain bagel, and I didn’t have to shell out a dime. Add to that attitude—the right kind—from a young cashier who had no idea she’d made my day already. 

That was a Starbucks drive-thru. But I left it thinking about church. What happens at the drive-thru on any given Sunday? You know, when a stranger slides into the back pew. Maybe he’s new in town and looking for a church that feels like home. Or maybe they just got married and she said to him, “I want us to start looking for a church,” and he went along, minus enthusiasm. Or maybe a friend at work invited them to this church because she started going here a few years back. Whatever the reason, someone (maybe you) is in that pew holding a worship bulletin that looks none too inviting, sitting next to a row full of people she’s never met, and feeling nothing but anxious.

There’s no order kiosk where she can ask for just what she wants or even for suggestions. There are no choices in the bulletin she opens on her lap, just lines to read and hymn numbers to find. It all feels very serious. The people, too. The pastor up front is trying her best to say, “You are welcome here. No strings attached.” But it doesn’t feel that way. And all this newcomer wants is to get out of there. At that moment, a hot cup of coffee made to order and a sprouted grain bagel would be a huge relief. But nothing’s made to order in this place! In this place there'd be no time even to give an order, because you’d lose your place in the bulletin and be lost the rest of the service.

Then there’s stand up, sit down, speak, be silent and listen, kneel, find the hymnal and sing, and oh my gosh—shake someone else’s hand! She doesn’t feel sociable, not one bit. What she feels like is running, fast, out the door. Especially when the offering plate comes by and she has no cash, no check, and they don’t take Starbucks gift cards. She is a misfit, whatever way you look at it. And the sooner she can get out, the better. The music is nice and the worship space is pretty and people do smile at her. But, well, she simply doesn’t fit in.

Have you ever wondered during church if that stranger sitting down the row from you might be that young girl? Have you ever been her? Could we church people learn something from the cashier at the Starbucks drive-thru window, the one who made me feel like what I wanted mattered? I wonder.

At Cross & Crown we really do want to welcome you. If we were making coffee for you, we’d want to make it exactly your way. If we were dishing out hot bagels, we’d want to offer your favorite, and serve it hot. We’d want you to sit back and think, “This is perfect.” We’d want to make your day. So if you’re anxious, know that we might be, too. But that’s only because we want so much to share with you our love of Christ, to welcome you warmly, and to pour you a cup of friendship that’s bigger than what you ordered. Be patient with us, will you? And come back again, because the welcome feels sweeter every time you receive it.

Try it and see.
Pastor Ginn