Would you like some tea?
In the early days of joining the community as a Resident Staff member, I was asked many times over if I would like tea. The question always startled me a bit. I like tea. I even drink tea occasionally. I would soon learn that the tea I usually drink is not “real” tea. “Anything other than black tea, just isn’t tea”, reported my new housemates. Not only that, tea requires milk, of all things. But, just the right amount.
In the days and weeks ahead I would be offered tea in the middle of the morning, afternoon and even evening. I would be offered tea in an office, the refectory, abbey and in a home. It did not take me very long to realise that tea is not just tea.
Tea is welcome
Tea is welcome. Tea is hospitality. Tea is generosity. Tea is connection. Tea is a sacred pause.
Tea shows up as the very first act of hospitality to arriving guests. It is poured out of a blue van on the green macer right in the middle of a pilgrimage. It arrives from week-worn staff on a Friday for staff meeting. It gives space between one thing and another. To stop. Breathe. And drink.
I should of known, really. During the pandemic, I was pastoring in Oregon, USA. A church member, originally from England, told me that 3pm were her loneliest times. Tea time. We started a “Tea on Tuesday” on zoom. We drank tea. We heard each other’s joys and challenges. We shared some kind of spiritual exercise. We prayed for the world.
My housemates just recently let me make tea for them. I’m still not allowed to put in the milk. In fact, I was actually told, playfully, by one of them I was not qualified to write anything about tea. I laughed. But I am, actually. Not because I am now drinking real tea on a regular basis. It is because I have given and received “tea” many times over.
Sharon Edwards, pictured in the centre of the image above, is Deputy Programme Director on Iona.