The other day I was getting a coffee refill at work and when I opened the fridge door I was met with the above picture. I took a moment to stand and consider my options, when I would normally just grab my usual. Did I want to take my coffee black that day? It would still have all the caffeine and be very diet friendly. On the far end of the scale was the flavoured cream which has sugar as well but would turn my drink into something almost like a luxury. Then there are the three levels of 1% milk, 2% milk and 18% cream. As a rule of thumb one might say that the higher the fat content, the richer and more appealing the coffee.
Can the same be said of our choice of church? Most of us attend the church in which we grew up without really giving it much thought. I have no intention of making any judgements on the different denominations of the Christian church. We have many different denominations, I believe, because no single style would satisfy everyone. This is largely because they are a function of religion which is a human construct, and not of faith itself.
At their hearts all churches are like black coffee. The essential elements of scripture, faith, and worship are central to each. We could call that the Holy Catholic Church.
International flavoured coffee cream
What are the ingredients that determine the percentage of cream in our churches? Music is an easy one to look at. If we consider plainsong or Gregorian Chant to be 1% and move towards the more complex that would put the style of simple choruses at 2%. The 18% cream might be the contemporary rock style and the more elaborate classical style music would then be the sweet specialty cream. I don’t think that works quite right. First, it left out the traditional hymn style and second, I don’t think many people these days would consider classical and formal music to be the sweet specialty. Since most churches don’t use plainsong these days maybe the lowest fat music should be the basic hymn, the sweetest the choruses with their strong emotional appeal. The other styles would fill in the center.
Preaching style would be another ingredient. The 18% might be the “fire and brimstone” style of preaching which has too much weight to be low-fat, and hardly sweet. The sweet would be a style that focuses entirely on the love of Christ and the idea that good Christians are always happy and successful. 18% preaching might include audio-visual displays or be somewhat off the cuff, while 2% is likely to be serious but deeply thought out and well composed.
The metaphor may seem a little strained, but even if we normally attend the church in which we grew up, there are times in our lives when we may find ourselves standing at the refrigerator door considering our options. For some this happens when a relationship begins or ends, when we come up against something to which we can not reconcile ourselves, for some maybe even just when we are bored. The point is to remember the central issue and keep that black coffee in our cups. Cheers!