26 September 2008

Churches and coffee?

It seems to be the latest trend - or craze - for ecclesial communities to have coffee shops or bars somehow attached to their churches. While there may be merit to these, they also pose serious questions.
Over at Vinum Novum, Bethany writes that as she and her husband have recently moved they have also received another "welcome to our city" type packet, complete with a coupon for a free coffee at an area church (at least, given the title of her post I presume it is).
Before receiving the coupon she had driven by the church a few times and could only be grateful when she did so that she was Catholic. She writes:

After receiving our “coupon” I couldn’t help but laugh, albeit a bit nervously. This lure gesture of good will is exactly what made me feel uneasy while passing the church. It reflects a consumer model of religion — a true relationship with Christ reduced down to a marketing ploy for the trendiest group or club in town. “He who has the most toys at the end wins,” only in this case it’s the “church” who has the largest crowd wins.

This model lacks a sense of sacredness, history, truth, Tradition. An authentic Christian community should come together in communion to acknowledge and rejoice in their beliefs as truth, i.e. their faith. They gain strength in their faith from knowing that those around them hold those same beliefs true.

Instead of strengthening the faith of its community of believers, the consumer model mocks faith, commercializing beliefs to be sold for whatever the spectators will pay for it.

This is what Pope Benedict XVI calls "pandering" to people.
What perhaps strikes me most is that there is no real mention of Jesus, no invitation to grow in faith, just an offer for a free gift. It could be coffee, a note pad, a magnet, a pen, a book, you name it.
Which is better: drawing people to the Church with coffee or with Truth? I'll take Truth any day.

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