The Worship Center has undergone several renovations in the past few years, one of which is the expansion and updating of the gathering space. This space is populated with people every Sunday morning as they gather around the tables with coffee and donuts in hand. For coffee hosts Mark and Thalya Hanson, this is a sight that they greatly appreciate, and not just because they often help do the serving.
“In the church where we grew up, the ability to socialize was restricted by the size of the church,” says Thalya. “You walked in, hung up your coat, and you were bumping into people.” Adds Mark, “The narthex had no social ability.”
When they eventually made their way to St. Mark several years ago, they were greeted warmly and invited to share a cup of coffee with current members. They kept coming back. After a new member class, they were asked to become coffee hosts. Mark notes, “We grew up in Northwest Iowa – small town, small church. Everyone knew each other. Through the years, every time we moved and became members at a new church, we always participated. Coffee ministry is an easy way to participate.” Thalya adds, “It’s fun to be at the coffee counter and see everyone that you didn’t get to sit by in church. And even though they are so busy on Sunday mornings, it’s really nice when the pastors get a moment to come out and say ‘hello’ to everyone.”
As for the renovated space, Mark notes that people like having more table space to sit. “Now we see more groups gathered at the tables, but they are not exclusionary. If you say, “Can I join you,” you would be very welcome.”
“And there are people who extend themselves and are watching for new people and say, ‘Come sit.’” adds Thalya. “Being greeted by a smile and an invitation to coffee is an easy way to make people feel welcome.”
Mark views their time as coffee hosts as part of St. Mark’s larger ministry and mission. “In your Christian life, a big aspect is connecting with people with shared faith. In the coffee hour, however long it lasts, you are able to interact socially with fellow members of the church and visitors and get to know them better. You ask each other questions, and you share information about your lives and your families. Maybe later you find yourself involved in another aspect of church with these same people that you have been visiting with, and now you have not only shared values and shared faith, but you have built a connection with them. ‘Coffee hosting’ is more than just serving coffee on Sunday morning; it is facilitating this ministry.”
Thalya concludes, “Whenever we get the monthly server schedule, I look to see when we are serving and write ‘coffee duty’ on the calendar. I think now I’m going to change that to say ‘coffee privilege!’”