Do you like afternoon tea? I do and over the years, it is something we have done to mark birthdays, anniversaries and such like. I even like the idea of afternoon tea for a wedding, though we had a sit down meal when David and I were married.
What is it about afternoon tea that we like? Is it the dainty crustless sandwiches, or the array of cakes or the pretty bone china and embroidered tablecloths? For me it has to be the setting, the expectation and the sharing with friends or family. My favourite place for afternoon Tea is at Gliffaes on the outskirts of Crickhowell, not so much a posh affair here, but a comfortable, country, relaxing place with plenty of savouries, dainties and as much tea/coffee as you could ever wish to consume. The setting overlooking the grounds and river is also pretty spectacular too!
I firmly believe that there is a place for for food and drink in our gatherings together. When in normal conditions, we welcome a visitor to our door with a cuppa over the kitchen table. Someone who is distressed is immediately offered a cup of steaming tea, a work person is rewarded with a mug of tea and a picnic with friends is all the better with a glass of bubbly or a flask of refreshment. You know yourselves after a church service how important that mug of coffee is for everyone.
The ministry of hospitality is hugely important, the attending to the needs of others then the sharing together of something tasty is profoundly deep and at the centre of our faith. Think, for so many, a simple drink and biscuit opens the door to a new friendship, a sharing of a concern or worry, a question about faith or lack of it. When you are cold or thirsty it refreshes and enables, as well as warms you up! But it is more than this, it is a thing which binds people together in a simple way through the most ordinary of things. I am sure those who go to Seasons will agree the cake and tea is fabulous but the fellowship greater, but without the one the other is harder to achieve.
In my first appointment at a medium sized suburban church in Durham, my wardens told me clearly the church didn't want me there, they didn't agree with the ordination of women at all. This was my first appointment and although I also was the second member of staff at the university church, this was rather a grim and foreboding welcome at my church. They did however throw me a bit of a lifeline, an invitation to pop in for coffee whenever. I did this and with plenty of coffee, cake, meals etc soon things started to change and things became more comfortable at that church. The ministry of hospitality was offered, I responded and we travelled to new horizons. Would this have happened without the hospitality, which led to in depth conversations? I don't know, but possibly not.
So this is something we can all be involved in and for some people it is within their comfort zones. Never underestimate the importance of a cuppa and the opportunity to allow folk to chat or talk in depth or of course, to be silent if they wish. As we move from isolation into "bubbles" there can be an opening for afternoon teas, a coffee and fellowship. This is a ministry everyone can take part in should they wish to, and a way of offering our service to God and community.