Since the genesis of my divinity school career one year ago, I have spent more Sundays catching up on my Twitter feed in the comfort of my bedroom than listening to sermons in stiff-backed pews. This lazy day routine is less rebellion than it is the setting aside of time for another important act of worship in my life: the leisurely consumption of coffee.
The art of enjoying coffee alongside a good book or new writing project, like most of my spiritual habits, was learned from my mom. Though I did not pick up a mug of my own until late in my senior year of college, drinking coffee has, for me, always represented a kind of religious experience akin to burning incense or listening to hymns.
Therefore, one can imagine my delight this week when I learned that coffee has more than an imagined association with religious practice. As Stephen Braun notes in his book, Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine, coffee is widely believed to have found its first fans in a group of monks, who learned from a local goatherd of a plant with berries that made goats especially spirited. The monks made a drink from the berries that allowed them to remain alert even while praying late into the night. And so our favorite mental fuel was born.
Those Sundays I do make it into a sanctuary I am reminded that the link between religious communities and coffee remains strong. Coffee hour, whether before or after the worship service, continues to play an important role in many churches, as parishioners exchange stories of mid-week baseball games and bathroom remodeling over Styrofoam cups of caffeine.
Though I have come to love it in peaceful solitude, coffee is a social drink, to be sipped with coworkers at a conference table or shared with a best friend in a bustling café. It may not activate the same level of social skill made possible by alcohol or aid your efforts to stay hydrated like water, but it is woven into the fabric of our culture, and for that I am grateful.
Coffee drinking is not a wholly redeemable habit, especially if your bag, like mine, is littered with Starbucks receipts for $3 to $6 drinks. Even with its proclaimed health benefits, most of us know the shame of being unable to make it through a morning meeting or class without a cup (or two) of the good stuff. But if asked to give thanks for all that makes this world a beautiful place, coffee would certainly make my list.
Give us this day our daily venti, non fat, no foam latte.
Forgive us our morning moaning, as we forgive yours.
Lead us not into Starbucks, but deliver us a Keurig.
For coffee is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.
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