Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a big Starbucks fan. It’s not just because I live in Seattle, either.
While I like the bold- somewhat bitter- flavor associated with the world’s most successful coffee chain, it’s not just their signature taste that has me hooked. What I love about the Starbucks in our town is how I feel when I go there. There’s a high-caffeinated kind of community that is almost church-like. For one thing, the baristas have a welcoming, caring demeanor. It’s feels good to have them call me by name and start my coffee drink without having to order. From behind their pulpit-like counter they convey a pastoral compassion. Being recognized and greeted warmly goes a long way in our increasingly disconnected and impersonal society. It’s just as satisfying as my venti drip (no room for cream please).
Even the environment at our local Starbucks reminds me of the kind of fellowship I long to see at church. People are seated around a fireplace reading the newspaper or reading a book (often a Bible). Others are reading someone’s facial expressions while listening to a friend pour out their heart. Young moms are there with their toddlers in tow. As they sip their lattes, they are sharing the joys and challenges of parenting with each other. There are tears, laughter, and knowing sighs. The cacophony is a comforting noise. It’s the sound of people in caring relationships.
Because of the church-like community that distinguishes my favorite watering hole, I’ve started referring to our local Starbucks as St. Arbucks. All the same, my reason to call Starbucks St. Arbucks is grounded (yes the pun is intentional) in something even more practical. It’s become an extension of our church campus.
I’ve seen one of our senior adults at one of St. Arbucks’ little round tables with his espresso in hand engaging an intellectual seeker in spiritual conversation. I’ve seen two middle-aged women from my church talking through an upcoming presentation on mentoring. My youth pastor conducts most of his one-on-one discipleship rendezvous at Starbucks. And it shouldn’t surprise you that I regularly hole-up in front of the outdoor fireplace with my Bible and notepad to meditate on my upcoming sermon.
And would you believe I’m not the only one in my family who feels the way I do? My oldest daughter loves Starbucks so much, she’s been ‘ordained’ a certified barista. She says it’s the best job she’s ever had. For Kristin, it’s a place of living out her faith through authentic relationships.
While blending a flavored coffee for a customer she’s able to call by name, she’s creating a thirst in the lives of those she works with for the satisfying relationship she has with her Creator. A God who, I must add, also created coffee beans. And he said ‘It is good!’
By Greg Asimakoupoulos