On coffee

I remember as a kid, drinking a shot of coffee in sugar and milk. Growing up in a church, Coffee was an expectation after the service for the general congregation. My parents were already pot-a-day coffee drinkers, although like most people, they brewed one of those brands that was de rigueur of the time. In other words, coffee was normal in basically every part of my life even at a young age.

I remember a now-defunct coffee shop in Chicago called Jinx that solidified coffee’s place in my daily habits and social encounters. Hang out for my older sister and her friends, it was a place where our timely but drastic lack of things in common would be set aside to enjoy coffee and a cigarette together. The coffee was black as night and I have no recollection of their roast or brewing methods, but my friends and I remember it fondly, as most youths do with such things, through the rose-colored lenses of memory.

I remember when Starbucks was a novelty and a shop moving into an area was not an immediate sign of the death of culture, though still an unfortunate sign gentrification was likely to occur soon. The coffee was considered good by most, even those who considered themselves coffee snobs and the company still roasted things in small-ish batches. The interiors were made to look like sitting rooms, places you might actually want to spend an hour no matter the reason, with couches and comfortable chairs.

Say what you will about Starbucks now, but it brought the current coffee revolution into the minds of the general public. Until Starbucks made everyone with a preference a coffee snob”, the term was reserved for those who cared about where their coffee came from, how it was roasted, and how it was brewed; the definition now includes those whose Starbucks orders are more complicated than cream and sugar. Now, a person can order a complicated coffee at McDonald’s.

I have many fond memories of coffee and I continue to make them. A couple years ago, I started to collect coffee bag labels and I now have an extensive collection. Recently, in my travels, I am starting to collect coffee cup sleeves for those places where I do not purchase a bag of beans. Not all of the coffees were good, but they were each an experience; almost none of them are overly memorable, but they are some of the easiest representations of those experiences.

In a recent conversation with my father, we discussed coffee,1 the approach to coffee of many hipsters and millennials, and my personal thrust for quality in the coffees I drink and what I advocate for when drinking it with other people. Quality, in and of itself, is not about any one thing in coffee. The growing, harvesting, treatment, payment, roasting, and brewing processes each have their place in one’s assessment. The hundreds of millions of bags produced each year are not all created equal; don’t we all need to think a little more deeply about all of the possible permutations of such things?

  1. I don’t think of him as a coffee drinker, though he still drinks coffee every day.

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The Challenges of 2020

TL;DR: Follow this link.

One of the craziest things about Christianity during the protests of the last few weeks is the fact that there are churches out there not discussing the issues honestly, not taking the time to have the hard conversations, not devoting their Sunday services to betterment of the world and people around them. If you’re church isn’t talking about racism right now, if they don’t mention that black lives matter, instead focusing on platitudes that equate to the all lives matter” sentiment, it is time to start looking for a new church.

My wife and I meet with my home” church virtually via Zoom since the pandemic is still a thing. Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ & La Iglesia Episcopal de Nuestra Señora de las Américas (KANSA, together) combined in a collaborative way to create a single denomination focused on the needs of their community. They follow Christ together toward the vision of love, reconciliation, peace and justice. The justice looks like the demolition and rehabilitation of an old church building and its grounds into a community garden and labyrinth open to all who seek peace through contemplation.

I give this elevator speech to mention that COVID has not been kind to faith communities in general. Budgets have been slashed, funding and grants have been cut, and congregations in need are also working to serve those in need, who are less likely to be able to financially support their church in these times. KANSA in one of the good ones. They speak truth, they have the difficult conversations, they preach in a loud voice every Sunday that black lives matter, that racism has no place in the church, that the LGBTQ community deserves respect and support, and that Jesus was a social justice warrior, who fought for the least of these no matter who they were, where they were from, what they looked like.

In fact, Jesus was most harsh to those who had the means to help and decided not to answer the call.

These systems of oppression we are protesting have been around a long time; they have screwed up a lot of lives, they have been the reason for revolution and the downfall of entire civilizations, they don’t work. We need to find a better way to live by supporting each other. And support has to come in systemic, social, financial, and political ways, both national and local.

I am not local to KANSA anymore, but I support their mission, the way that mission manifests in the world, and the simple fact that they follow Jesus no matter how ostracizing that position can be at times. Which brings me to the point:

Thanks to a $10,000 matching gift’ from an anonymous donor, the challenge has become an opportunity. Over the next two months, we plan to raise at least $10,000 to meet the challenge. Through August 31, 2020, every donation we receive toward our 2020 Challenge” no matter how small or how large will be doubled by the matching gift.

KANSA is hurting financially and needs support, they do good work and are unabashedly progressive in their approach to our world. Donate now and see your contribution matched to keep one of the good ones fighting the good fight.

Thank you for your consideration.