Church, a Café

A Berlin Sunday morning is something of an oddity.

There’s the church, that two percent or so of the city’s population that wakes with intentionality to travel by foot, tram or train, or all three. These worshipers gather any time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in cathedrals, homes, community centers, and movie theaters. But this of course, is a minority group.

And then there’s the other worshipers, the ones who prefer to praise outside the confines of stained glass and organized worship. I inadvertently began this particular Sunday morning in this Berlin style, emerging from bed about 11 to eventually mosey into a corner seat of the nearby bakery/café by 1. Complete with cappuccino and Franzbrötchen before me. It was my second attempt since my first destination café, I learned, is closed on Sundays, just like the markets and shops. Such a remnant of the country’s ‘by faith alone’ church history stands in passive existence across the street from a strip club called Sodom and Gomorrah. Universal signs of sabbath and sin coexist in close proximity.

The main, normally bustling Torstrasse (Gate Street) is quiet this still-early hour. As I enter the cozy confines of my café, I learn where most of the awake in Berlin have been hiding. Like cathedral pews, these cafés beckon the hungry, still-hungover masses to sit, find rest and relief from perpetual loneliness, to worship. Not limited to an hour or two of liturgy, these tables offer breakfast all day long and encourage lingering. Here, one can worship freely and feel belonging, without the perceived fear of judgement. One can take and eat without the binding union with the Divine.

As I worship alongside Berliners in this café today, I find belonging too. I’m reminded of our shared reasons for coming to this café. My thirst for more. Though currently alone, I find community during this afternoon time of Kaffee and Kuchen in spirit with those sitting at the table across from mine. Maybe that’s part of the reason coffee shops conjure up feelings of home for me. Strangers together partake of the sacraments of food, community, and rest.  Nothing short of a spiritual experience. To disagree, would be to defy one’s humanity, our very existence in this ordered world.

Perhaps I should take a little more time to sit with Berliners in a café and thirst.

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