The year 2020 is a year to remember.
The unavoidable events that have overtaken our daily routines have opened new way to experience our daily lives. In Puerto Rico, we must include in this mix the recurrent earthquakes that have taken over the southwest part of the island since late December 2019, and the higher unexpected dry season that have forced a water rationing. Some people have held their usual travel schedules to shelter in place and online meetings, while others are forced to relocate to a safer place to live. Others are experiencing new ways to connect with family, friends, and co-workers by video chats; online, radio and television worship services; or simply good old telephone conversation. Without a doubt, 2020 is a year to remember and we are only halfway through it. Nevertheless, we are roasting coffee.
For most of us, preparing a morning cup of joe is a simple and easy routine. Whether we use a French press, drip coffee maker, espresso machine, or the good old drip bag, there is nothing better than a good cup of coffee to start your day. We do so without thinking about the long and tedious process it takes to get it from tree to cup. Keep in mind that a coffee tree may take 3 to 4 years to bear fruit. The coffee cherry must be handpicked. Yes, there are no machines to do this. Then, the cherry is peeled, dried, milled to remove the husk, dried again, roasted to perfection, ground, and brewed. This process may take months before the coffee reaches your morning cup.
El Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico (SEPR) has prepared people for ministry for over 100 years. Just like preparing the coffee bean to reach your cup, at El Seminario, students peel off their protective skin, husk and dry out excess moisture by deeply studying the Bible, preparing exegetical papers, discussing theological issues, learning about church history, and preparing homilies. Above all, seminary students prepare themselves to proclaim God’s word through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just like preparing the coffee cherry to reach your morning cup, seminarians prepare themselves to better serve in today’s reality.
I roast my own coffee beans every week. I also freshly grind my coffee right before brewing. I found out that roasting is the most important step to enjoy the best cup of coffee. It's during roasting that the hidden moisture in the bean is dried out. By roasting, the beans lose around 20% of its weight from hidden moisture. The drier the bean, the darker the color and stronger the flavor. Therefore, roasting is the last step in the process but is also where the coffee beans takes its character, its boldness, it flavor. We are just roasting coffee.
The changes and challenges that we, as People of God, are facing today are just the roasting in our process to better serve our callings, to better serve those in need. The pandemic, the lockdown orders, the face mask, and new online life are the finishing touches to complete the best bean for the perfect brew.
The characteristics we take during this process will be reflected in our service after the pandemic. Just like in home roasting, where not the roasted beans are not uniform, the times we are living in today will have a different effect on all of us. And just like in-home coffee brewing, the flavor does not come from one single bean but from a lot of them. Learning from the pandemic and serving after the pandemic calls us all.
El Seminario's roasting process moved us from in classroom classes to remote or alternative methods of teaching and learning. From serving the community, to the development of clergy and lay leaders, to becoming a grocery distribution center. Over 1750 grocery boxes have been distributed at El Seminario by the employees, faculty, and students. Families and individuals from Rio Piedras, Caimito, Barrio Obrero, Caño Martín Peña, Santurce, Camarones, foreign students stranded in Puerto Rico, and others benefited from the groceries distributed by El Seminario. In addition to groceries, El Seminario distributed over 500 prepared meals to those picking up groceries.
Furthermore, theological conversations have moved from the classroom to community outreach. Online conversations with denomination leaders, pastors, students, and church members have been taking place almost on a weekly basis to discuss and talk about current events and the church's response to the crisis. We are just roasting coffee.
You and I are together in this process. What we learn or unlearned from this new experience of life will be brewed into the next cup of coffee we share with our congregation, place of worship, or community. Let us take this opportunity to dry the last hidden moisture of conformity that does not allows to see God’s grace, blessing, mercy, and love that surround us daily.
In the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (31:2 NKJV), “The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness— Israel, when I went to give him rest.” May you find the grace of the Lord in the middle of your wilderness. Remember, we are just roasting coffee.
Raul Santiago Rivera works with the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.