Office Hours at the Coffee Shop

There are four local eateries where you can find clergy on Cape Ann, at least on the island side. I know because I’m sort of a regular at some of these coffee shop/restaurants, and I see my colleagues there, quite often, too. The Willow Rest, on Washington Street between Riverdale and Annisquam; the Plum Cove Grind in Lanesville; The Red Skiff in Rockport, especially early in the morning; and the Pleasant Street Tea Company in downtown Gloucester, especially in the afternoon. There are other places, too, but these are ones I know well.

10 really good reasons to meet with people at a coffee shop.

1). The coffee, tea, or food, is usually good, and goes a long way toward soothing the soul. Comfort food does work. Both you and the person you are meeting with have time to think about what to say next while chewing on something delicious. The furrowed brow unfurrows when there are pastries in sight. Who can be irritated while eating a blueberry Danish, or a jelly donut? If you just need to listen, you can hold a warm cup in your hands, while contemplating the other person.

2). It’s friendly. It’s pleasant to have a meal with other people. Eating together is a bonding experience, the source of the word “companion,” which is someone with whom you break bread.

3). It’s public. Lots of other people are around, and the murmur of their conversations may help your conversation feel less risky. Sometimes people are uncomfortable meeting the pastor at the office–it feels too vulnerable, or you need neutral ground. The coffee shop is a happy medium. The drawback is, of course, the conversation may not go to the depths that one might wish.

4). It’s fun. It’s a nice alternative in the workday. And even though the meeting you’re having is work-related, because it’s in a coffee shop or tea room, it doesn’t feel like work. There’s often small eateries near offices or downtown, which may be more convenient for people for lunchtime or coffee meetings.

5). Everyone can see that you are working.

6). It’s good networking. You often run into people you know, colleagues, friends, acquantainces, even sometimes family, either from your faith community, or your neighborhood. If you bring your appointment book with you, you can pin them down for time later–a really handy way to make sure you can catch up with them. And they know you mean it when you say, “let’s get together for coffee,” because they see that you are doing just that. Sometimes it’s the only place I see other colleagues for weeks on end.

7. It benefits local business and you get the benefit of local wisdom, in return. When you meet with someone to talk theology in a coffee shop, you are supporting the small business persons in your neighborhood. And they like the idea that they’re doing something for “the Big Guy in the sky” as one owner put it. The owners who also work in their shops often have insight into local concerns, and will sometimes offer you the benefit of their thoughts. They can be incredibly caring, too, in times of community need, with a knowledge of local resources and helpful people.

8. You can get a lot done. Surprisingly, the coffee shop may have less distractions than the office. No phone calls, unless you are both answering the cell phone; no interruptions, because people see you are talking; and since it’s usually a shortish meeting, often less than an hour, you get down to business pretty quickly.

9. You have to eat sometime. If you are like me–generally working through lunchtimes, grabbing a bite to eat on the fly–then the coffee-shop, tea-room, lunch-counter meeting is an effective way to make sure you’ve eaten something. It helps to eat, after all.

10. I’m preaching to the choir, I know. If you are reading this, you probably enjoy having lunch with friends, so there’s no need to convince you. I’m writing it because I’ve been noticing how many times I meet people in such pleasant places, and how often I see my colleagues there, too, engaged in similar conversations over excellent cups of coffee or tea.

Office hours–pretty flexible, depending on when you want a coffee-break.


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