Coffee in the sanctuary? Heaven forbid!

What’s new?  I got myself in trouble at church a couple of Sundays back.

The pastors suggested we try a coffee shop/gathering place in the basement during the Christmas season to see if there may be some interest.  If it developed traction perhaps something more significant could come of it, depending on how the trustees viewed the project.  (Everyone knows who really runs the church – and it ain’t the Pastoral staff.)

Our church facility has never enjoyed the luxury of a location where you visit before or after the service, sipping on highly caffeinated coffee, a practice much endorsed by the ministers as it helps to keep everyone attentive, the only downside being that some pick up their church mail before, instead of after church, providing an irresistible temptation to read the church family news letter rather than focus on more substantive matters, during the service.

Church starts at 9:00.  The coffee hour hostesses have things ready to go at 8:30.  I rather enjoyed heading over a little early each Sunday morning.  It helped prepare me for the morning service.  It deepened my appreciation for my fellow parishoners.  If only it would have stopped there.

I don’t recall that I’ve ever taken coffee into the sanctuary before, but with half a cup to go, and the first hymn about to start, I thought it would be poor stewardship to throw the coffee out, so I snuck it in with me, not knowing that a very good friend of mine who I sat directly in front of, considered this highly inappropriate.

He let me know it as soon as I sat down, without a wink or a grin.  He was offended.

I thought I could not only lighten him up a little, but possibly enlighten him as well, all to no avail.

Bear in mind, we are a traditional, conservative, rural Mennonite congregation.  I’ve got 40 some Jerseys in our barn.  They do get milked twice a day, although I’ve not helped in a while. We just celebrated our church’s 75th anniversary. Bringing coffee into the sanctuary is not a cornerstone upon which our church was built.

It was after the service that I crossed the line.  I turned around and asked my friend if he’d care to dispose of my Styrofoam cup for me, thinking perhaps such a gallant gesture would thaw him out.  It went over like a hand-held mic with a dead battery.

My conscience got the best of me on Monday morning.  I called up and apologized for my behavior.

He appreciated the call and said he would forgive me.  He has.  I stopped in to see him a couple of days later just to be sure.

Regardless, it will be a couple months of Sundays before I pull that stunt again.

Going through life is analogous to driving a car.  After seventy years we all look a little like the cars in Cuba.  What we’ve learned in our little community, however, is to recognize that some of these bumps and dents are unavoidable, and that with an attitude of mercy, forgiveness, and asking for forgiveness, we are able to move forward united.  In our own unique way we seek to humbly honor and glorify our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, at least until the next time one of us swerves left of center.

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13 Responses to Coffee in the sanctuary? Heaven forbid!

  1. Ruth Abbott says:

    Peter, I enjoyed your entire blog but particularly the final paragraph. Too bad not all communities are able to view “bumps and dents” with mercy and forgiveness. BTW, coffee in the sanctuary was a HUGE hurdle for me but it is quite commonplace now out here. (Can you imagine bringing anything bigger than a cough drop into the Tab?)

    • peter says:

      Well, spilling a coffee on that concrete floor that sloped all the way to the front – it could have been rather entertaining! There would have been nothing to stop it, or soak it up!

  2. Peter, I always enjoy your blogs. I agree that the last paragraph was the most important. It might be interesting, however, to note that the word “sanctuary” given to the church auditorium was not attached until the middle ages when criminals would run to the altar for “sanctuary”! The early church would gather in homes, stores, and buildings where food and drink (love feasts) were a welcomed feature. In fact, Paul scolded the Corinthian church and said that they were not really conducting themselves properly at the communion table by letting the poor and hungry go without food (I Cor 11:17-22) while others staggard in as drunk gluttons!!! So Paul believed that food should be shared and probably would have endorsed coffee over wine at the pot-Providence meals. Regardless of one’s view of food and drink in the “sanctuary” I think your last paragraph and action was truly in the Spirit of Christ. Enjoyed! Dan

  3. Peter, I did indeed enjoy this blog and the subsequent apology and forgiveness. I am not offended by love feasts or even coffee in the church sanctuary, but I was offended by a coffee shop where coffee and goodies were for sale in the foyer with no room left to visit and chat with one another. At another spot was a book store with tapes of the pastor’s sermons and books for sale. I go to church Sunday to worship not be part of the corporate buying and selling I’m involved in all week. I remember when stores and gas stations were shut on Sunday and that in order to fill up you had to think a day ahead. I remember when we were not allowed to do anything but play board games and write letters home on Sunday — Oh well. Sunday back then was truly a day of rest. The world is changing far too rapidly for me.

    • peter says:

      I’m with you Leila! Churches that sell coffee and products in their facilities on Sunday is not something that I am at all comfortable with. Point well made!

  4. Enid says:

    Peter, thanks for sharing this experience. I know that you have a tender heart because offending your brother bothered you so much that you apologized and then paid him a visit to be sure everything was okay between you. It spoke to me today because last Friday I said “a few things” to my boss that I should not have said and suffered all weekend thinking and praying about it. This morning I felt like a big burden lifted off my heart when I called him to apologize. Of course, he forgave me, and the Lord did too. Thank God for His grace and for the Holy Spirit who speaks to his children when we offend others–unconsciously (your case) or consciously (my case).

  5. Andrea says:

    Thanks, Peter, for this one. So true. I’ve learned this the hard way, being a from a “bull in a china shop” type upbringing…I’m grateful for the grace extended to me by those who probably had every reason to roll their eyes instead (you and LeAnna among them!). And I’m anxious to pass that “mercy, forgiveness, and asking for forgiveness” on to others. God has been so patient with me.

    Keep writing, brother-in-law, you do it so well! 🙂

  6. Rose says:

    I have been a Christian for 45 years. All of those years, I have been taught and told that we are not to bring food or drink into the sanctuary. I never really knew why not, but I never thought a lot about it. Just recently, a new convert brought a cup of coffee into the sanctuary during the service. The man who owns our church building protested to the pastor. The pastor asked me to search the scriptures and find if this prohibition is scriptural and where this ‘rule’ originated. I cannot find any scripture that says anything prohibiting food or drink in the sanctuary. I sincerely believe this is some rule that was invented by a man way back there somewhere and has carried over to today.
    I have no desire to eat donuts and drink coffee during a service, but it does irk me for these things thought up by our forefathers to become like they are the gospel.

  7. Joni leonard says:

    You cannot walk into a courthouse with food or drink or wearing a ball cap or talking on your cell phone. You will be escorted out. How much more respect should we have for the “House of God”? We are there to worship the most High God. Kind of hard to do if you have a coffee and donuts in hand or worse yet, the person next to you hates the smell of coffee.
    Seriously, you can’t go an hour or two without coffee?
    We need to remember why we are there in the first place.
    God is not just one of the good old boys or the man upstairs. He is our Creator and Judge. We should show respect He is due

  8. Emerald Green says:

    The church that I attend just begun serving coffee and cookies at the start of the service in the sanctuary. I am not a fan of it. I am 56 years old and honestly I had never ever seen this practice previously. In my humble opinion, the church has allowed the ways of the world to infiltrate its practices. How can we come together in one accord if some are eating cookies and some are drinking coffee while the word of God is coming forth? I am very uncomfortable with this practice but I am not in leadership so I do not make such decisions. I do pray about it at home and I still do not find peace with it. I am of the mindset that we come together to be fed spiritually. I understand having a fellowship meal and coffee after the service but I do not see the purpose of serving coffee and cookies during the service. It creates an atmosphere that resembles a social event instead of a place and time to reverence God.

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