Would you like a cuppa tea?
How would you like it?
With milk and sugar, please.
Tea is a daily norm in England. Each day, I am offered a cup of tea or I am offering a cup of tea to someone. During my time in Manchester, I have experienced drinking tea in a formal high tea setting at a restaurant, sipping tea in couches at church, and drinking tea casually at a dining room table. In each of these settings, and the numerous other times I have had tea, I have experienced something more than just a British cultural norm. I have experienced accompaniment.
Accompaniment is a model used by the Evangelical Church in America when serving our neighbors. According to the ELCA, accompaniment is defined as ‘walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality.’ There are three stories associated when working with our neighbor, God’s story, my story, and your story. All three stories intertwine showing that mission is about our relationship with God and with one another. While walking alongside our neighbors we also practice inclusivity and vulnerability.
Offering tea to someone is a sign of hospitality. St.Chrysostom’s Church is open most afternoons during the week for people to come inside. People may come into the church for a variety of reasons, such as, a time for personal prayer or they may be visiting from another city. Part of my role as the Parish Assistant is to offer tea to people who come into the church. This has led me to share a pot of tea with many different people. Sharing a pot of tea is when the conversations begin. The breadth and depth of these conversations vary, but during each conversation mutuality, inclusivity, and vulnerability are present.
There are times when I am offered tea and I say yes even if I am not thirsty for tea. I am not thirsty for the actual tea, but I am thirsty for the relationship and conversation that comes with the tea.
The practice of accompaniment makes me think of the biblical story, ‘The Walk to Emmaus,’ Luke 24: 13-35. In the gospel text it starts off with two disciples walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about all the things that had recently happened, when suddenly a mysterious man appears before them. This mysterious man happens to be Jesus, but the disciples don’t recognize him. Jesus asks them what they are talking about and they reply with, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” In this situation Jesus could have easily replied with, “Ummm duhh, of course I know what is going on…I AM Jesus!” But instead of telling them who he is Jesus takes the time to listen to their story and what they have to say. He creates a space which allows the men to share their story. In the text, Jesus is physically walking along side these two disciples. He doesn’t run ahead to show them the way, but instead accompanies them on their journey.
In the text, during the breaking of the bread, the two disciples realized that this mysterious man was Jesus. It was during this moment when they realized Jesus was present with them throughout their journey to Emmaus. During this ordinary act of breaking bread, they saw God’s presence. In the ordinary act of drinking tea, I have experienced God’s presence. I have witnessed the beauty of being vulnerable and how the simple act of drinking tea can create community.
There have been a few times during worship where we have sang hymns that I recognize. Last Sunday during worship we sang a hymn that was familiar, one that we sing back in my home Lutheran church. It is in these moments when I am showered with an abundance of emotions, a mix of homesickness, comfort, and pure joy for being right where I am. I call my singing, joyful noise (I’m not always in tune, but I enjoy singing), and boy, there is always joyful noise being made during these moments. We sang the hymn, ‘The Summons.’ For those Lutherans pals of mine, hymn #798 in the cranberry hymnals, check it out. Below are the lyrics.
Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I’ll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
There are a few lines in the hymn that really resonated with me. Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? YES, I definitely did not know where I was going when I accepted the call to do YAGM, and my heart and mind will never be the same after this year. Each day I am challenged with the unknown and unfamiliar and each day I say ‘yes,’ to accepting the challenge. Will you let my love be shown? YES, your love will be shown in my actions and interactions with the people I meet this year. Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me? YES, I will accompany my neighbors, listen to their stories, and view the world through a compassionate lens.
Would you like a cuppa tea?
How would you like it?
With mutuality, inclusivity, and vulnerability, please.