Starbucks baristas are going to begin having conversations on race with people at their stores. This obviously has sent people from all sides into various states of wondering what in the world is happening when we are having serious conversations before we get our coffee. After all, the coffee has to come first, right?
I think it points to how starved we are for meaningful conversation and community. It also point to how few places there are where this happens. I think Starbucks is great. They have created and capitalized upon our need for third space. I often write sermons in the Starbucks right up the street from our house and it actually feels like the local coffee shop. I see the same people in week after week and baristas know not only orders but what to ask of customers and what to not ask. It feels like safe space. In the age of social media, when anyone can say or write anything, the dialogue is too one-sided. We don’t have conversation so much as we have pontification.
The issue is that there are so few spaces where we can have authentic and real conversations about real issues that a global corporation has to step in to create such space. I think this is an opportunity for the church. What does it say about our ministry when people feel more comfortable asking hard questions in a coffee shop than in the church? How can we create space in the church for these types of conversations? How can we dialogue with each other in a spirit of love and grace? Can we make sure that ALL people are welcome to the conversation? People often lament the church’s lost influence in the community. I bet the right answers to the questions are a great step to regaining influence in our communities and in culture.
Oh, and at my church, we do have really good coffee. That obviously counts for something.