Part of my ministry at Faith UMC is hanging out at the Barnes and Noble Cafe on Monday afternoons. I hold my "Open Hours" from 3:30-5:30pm. This started as an opportunity for church folks (and others) to chat with me in an informal setting. I got the idea from blog-friend Elizabeth Quick who held similar open hours at a Panera near her church. Most weeks I drink hot chocolate, get a snack and do some work on my computer. And most weeks I get at least one visitor.
Over these months I've found that folks stop by to visit me at the Cafe who would never stop in to talk to me at the office. The conversations are often very deep and meaningful. It is, somehow, easier for folks to talk with me over a cup of coffee, over the din of other coffee drinkers, rather than in the quiet of my office. And on the weeks that I have no visitors I am able to catch up with my reading, e-mails, blogging, or whatever I'm falling behind with at the moment!
One of the side benefits of this practice is that it gets me out of my office and into the community. It is surprising how many other people I regularly see at the Cafe on Monday afternoons. I've developed a passing friendship with two older gentlemen who meet for coffee every week. Others are in regularly offering tutoring services, catching up on reading and meeting friends. I feel like I am part of a fellowship of coffee drinkers (or hot chocolate drinkers) and readers who form a small community.
Sometimes I get questions from parishioners asking, "Are you still doing the Barnes and Noble thing?" My response, "I wouldn't give it up for the world!"