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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

August 14, 2009

Coffee Grounds & Church Grounds

I have been fascinated for years with that particular street corner. It is the intersection of neighborhoods and commerce there in Berkeley. My favorite coffee shop is on the corner and it's not that far from the seminary community. It makes for a pleasant walk in the morning when the fog is still in the air.

Most coffee shops are a refuge for the young, or at least those younger than I. Around Columbus, there are lots of 20-30 year olds in the cafes. If you go to some of the coffee shops, you'll notice many teens ordering sweet, frothy concoctions and hanging out. But there in Berkeley; while there are thousands of Berkeley college students at their coffee places, this particular cafe has a regular older clientele. I fit right in. A lot of them are survivors of the 60's, if you catch my drift, and many are probably college profs (I noticed some of the texts and books they were reading) and many are from the margins of society, which in Berkeley puts them firmly within the mainstream.

The coffee house is upscale. The coffee thick and rich, not cheap and even a latte' is strong. It's a regular gathering of souls. They sit inside and in the back room (I prefer the newly remodeled back room with pictures on the walls telling the story of the business). Many gather out on the sidewalk where sturdy chairs are brought outside to hold regular customers who buy their coffee. They sit outside and discuss local and world affairs.

For years I have noted that the church across the street has a fence around it. It's kept gated, locked and chained. The National Guard doesn't lock itself in so tight (I've been to one in Columbus; it could take lessons from this Berkeley church). From the standpoint of a minister, I always thought that was too bad that the church remained a fortress. It has a nice outdoor courtyard (Locked). It has a nice parking lot (Locked). Space is at a premium in Berkeley and any way to ease the crunch would certainly benefit the community, the coffee shop and the general mood of the community.

Recently I noticed that a few of the coffee shop clientele moved a table and chairs right up to the gate of the church and drink coffee and play chess and discuss the state of the world, under a shade tree. Granted, the church probably would not attract many members from the clientele of the coffee shop and it's for certain that the church members would not drink coffee, but, c'mon, it's Berkeley.

For years I imagined that perhaps, on Sunday mornings, the gates of the locked church would be open and fresh air would be shared by all. So it was with anticipation that I went to get my coffee Sunday morning. I noticed that the gates to the church were indeed open and I thought that a good sign. No one was mingling in the outdoor courtyard though.

As I left, I followed a couple, who appeared to be church members. They walked past the open front gates of the church, avoiding the coffee house patrons planted there. I followed them on the side street and realized that the church members, whether they walked there from the neighborhood or those who drove, were all entering the church from the parking lot back entrance, avoiding any contact with real live community people.

Too bad for all.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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