Pastoral reflections around a cup of tea

Pastoral reflections around a cup of tea

Anthony Ndang Ndichia mhm


In the recent past I have visited many churches and the custom of drinking tea after Mass has grown significantly. Why do people drink tea after Mass? Why won’t they dash to their cars and drive home as some still do today? Why are many parishes organizing teas/coffee after mass? Are people no longer busy as they always claim? What’s bringing people together for a cup of tea after Mass especially during winter when it is cold? What is the reason behind a cup of tea after a weekday or Sunday Mass? Isn’t there something more to it than just drinking tea?

Some time ago in one of my parishes, I sat with some parishioners for a cup of tea after Mass. It was very pleasant sharing a cup of tea. In the course of our sharing I learned a lot about them and they also discovered certain things about me that they didn’t know before. At the end, I realised that whenever people gather together something happens as we hear in the scriptures “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matthew 18; 20).We discussed many things; family backgrounds, culture, faith, traditions, politics, poverty, achievement and successes of people, current events, health, life problems, the sick and elderly in the parish.

I realised the presence of Jesus in our shared woundedness, in our brokenness, in our stressed life, in our past, in our futures, in our families, in our friends, in our church, in our society, in our country. Until today, our sitting down has drawn each of us together to bonds of love, closeness, mutual concern, support, communion, friendship and family spirit.

This reminds me of what happened in the early church: The first Christians met in their homes for the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42-47), the first Christians were united in heart and soul (Acts 4:32-37, the Church grew as a community (Romans 12:2-13), Love your neighbour as you love yourself (Matthew 22;39), Live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Ephesians 4;1) People brought their gifts “time” to the community (Ephesians 4:1-6), faith without deeds is useless (James 2;20)

The truth is that people sitting around the table for a cup of tea is bringing them together more than ever before. We live in a world where technology is widening the personal and physical contact between people. It is now easier to relate to people who live far away from us through mobile phones and the internet. But some people feel anonymous or unknown in the community. They would like a warm, supportive human community. There is need for the church to bring personal bonds of love and communion together. Catholics in South Africa and elsewhere are finding support and strength in gathering around the cup of tea. People are getting to know each other better, strengthening friendship ties.

In PARISH communities, people are fed by the Word of God and the Eucharist as they try to live the Christian life in the best way possible. However, parishioners often do this individually. They do not see the need for relationships with other people. In fact, some of them are quite alone. When they are sick or feeling distressed maybe no one knows about their situation and so there is no one to care for them.

In these situations they feel particularly lonely. People today are seeking for a sense of community, for a sense of belonging, “no one is an island”. This is where sitting round a table with a cup of tea breathes new life, new energy, and reawakening. What was weak in us becomes strong, what was doubtful becomes hopeful, what was poor in us becomes rich, and what was ugly in us turns to beauty.

The power of physical contact has changed many lives and continues to change lives. People who encounter one another’s different facets of life do not remain the same, for God does not only see us as individuals, but as a community of people. Our family is a community and we would feel lifeless without our family bonds. The same is true for the Church. God wants us to be community of Christians not individual disciples. Sitting around with a cup of tea in the parish is uniting people more than ever before. In sharing a cup of tea after Mass, there is no rich or poor, young or old, short or tall, ugly or beautiful, Black or White, single or married, or strangers. In short, all are one family sharing and speaking the same uniting cup of tea

During this year of mercy, may the grace of baptism which unites us as brothers and sisters in South Africa – Whites, Blacks Coloured – be reawakened in us to so we can begin to relate faith to work, family, daily life struggles, health, society and other life situations. As well as our bodies, tea after Mass is beginning to strengthen people’s faith, helping people in their daily life, bringing Christ to broken hearts, and peace restored in people’s hearts. In our sharing of tea, may we be reminded that the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those “who labour and are overburdened” (Matthew 11:28). Through the ritual of drinking tea together, may we come realise that face to face contact is possible in our parishes and that everyone can come to know each other better.

Fr Anthony Ndang Ndichia mhm is a Mill Hill Missionary working in the diocese of Kroonstad, South Africa.

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