I don’t look down my nose at Starbucks—I’m old enough to remember the world before they came along, when coffee sat in pots all day long just getting thicker. Nonetheless, I like to find local coffee places that are truly local. They have the color, the “taste” if you will, of their communities.
In Santa Fe there’s one I always visit. Last week the clerk had something like a miniature horseshoe hanging from her nose; the posters and the restrooms were happily promoting gender fluidity; and a local artist’s work (montages of city scenes) was hung for sale. The coffee was high-altitude perfect, the granola homemade and heavily nutty, and the quiche fantastic. I luckily got the last slice.
Some five hundred miles away, I have found a coffee shop in my old hometown. Out front it has a dinosaur—or, I thought it was a dinosaur until I read the signage. This, it says more or less, is a model of an animal that was alive about five thousand years ago somewhere in Asia. Alongside the non-dinosaur, I then notice, are the Ten Commandments. Inside, there are Bible books for children and self-help books for adults in various aspects of life, all sunnily promoting their Christian perspective. There are tables, free wifi, people talking and a few on their computers.
And the coffee is perfect: every cup a “pour-over,” made to order, or one of the standard espresso drinks. It could hardly be more different than that coffee shop in Santa Fe, and yet the coffee is worth the even-higher price.
If you know me at all, you know I am not a relativist. The Gospel is the same in all times and for all people. Jesus died for the people in any town you might visit, and submission to Christ the King is required of all who would receive the Gospel, without exception.
Still I find it amazing to think of the striking differences, and the equally-striking samenesses, of these two coffee houses. Each embraces its community with a certain affection, opening a common space that can be shared. And each offers quality.
You can learn a lot about a community by finding a local coffee house. It makes me ponder how the Gospel—the good Gospel, the one that’s freshly poured-over just for you—how that Gospel can grow in any particular place.