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A warm cup of welcome: how coffee can bring people together

The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony provides a beautiful reminder of the importance of community and hospitality.

Written by Gideon Heugh | 01 Oct 2021

First, there is the bright sound of laughter. Joy fills the air like warm sunshine. A group of women are sat in a circle on the ground, their colourful dresses making a statement of life. They share stories, catch up on what’s been going on. Then, the smell of fresh coffee brings further smiles.
We are in an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. It is a revered tradition in the country, and part of the fabric of everyday life for millions of people. It’s also central to self-help groups – a Tearfund initiative that is changing lives.

Traditional coffee roasting in Adama, Ethiopia. Credit: Will Boase/Tearfund

Care, love and support

Self-help groups bring together 15 to 20 people from some of the most vulnerable communities. Through learning new skills, discussing community issues and saving together to invest in small businesses, the group members are empowered to overcome poverty and flourish.   

During the Coffee Ceremony, everything is done together, because these women know that together is where the power is. Roasting and grinding the beans, heating the water, brewing the coffee and then pouring the steaming, fragrant drink into the cups. It is all a ritualised act of community and hospitality. 

‘Offering someone a cup of coffee is how we manifest the spirit of welcoming and love,’  says Nigatwa, a self-help group member in Adama, a large town in central Ethiopia. ‘We care, love, and support each other; it is the glue to our social life. When we sit for coffee, we feel rested and relaxed.’

Strangers and angels

This spirit of welcoming and love could not be more important. Especially these days, with the coronavirus pandemic causing so many people to feel the pain of isolation.

Part of an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony. Credit: Will Boase/Tearfund

Hospitality and welcome are key themes in the Bible. We see this in verses such as Hebrews 13:2 – ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.’

It is also evident throughout Jesus’ life. He was always being invited (or inviting himself) into strangers’ homes. One of his most famous parables, the Good Samaritan, has hospitality at its heart, with the stranger caring for the injured man’s needs.

A culture of welcome

With churches in the UK beginning to open their doors again, we can once again display this vital characteristic of Christian life. 

There is nothing quite like being welcomed into a space with a beaming smile, warm words and an offer of something to eat or drink. In a world where so many have felt isolated – a world that can, at times, feel unwelcoming – churches can offer a love and acceptance that can truly change lives.

Women gather together in a self-help group in Adama, Ethiopia. Credit: Will Boase/Tearfund

And it doesn’t just need to be in church. It is currently harvest season – a time when we give thanks for what we have and consider what we can to share it with others. How can we all offer the gift of hospitality to others, now and in the future?

Pray with us

Gather together with a group of family, friends, colleagues, or fellow church-goers. If you’re not able to meet in person, this can also be done online.

At your gathering, make a hot drink together. Say a short prayer before you begin, thanking God for the good things you’ve been given.

Take your time making the drink, being present to each part of the process. Notice the sounds and the smells.

Once you have poured the drink into the  cups, say a further blessing over them, praising God for the power of community, and asking for more the love and welcome of Christ to fill the church.

Written by

Written by  Gideon Heugh

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