Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Coffee Culture in Korea

Coffee, a newcomer to Korea, and the culture it has developed are now very much at home here. Koreans love coffee and the social ambiance it generates. What better way is there, many are now thinking, than to spend time relaxing and drinking coffee while working, talking to a friend, sitting at the computer or just getting away from the crowd.  Responding to the demand, specialty coffee shops in the cities are opening practically next door to each other. But more than just enjoying the coffee, customers are looking for a quiet space, to rest alone or with others, for as long as they care to stay.

The Peace Weekly thinks this coffee culture is important enough to discuss in an article in this week's edition and also in its editorial, headlined "Moral of the Parish Cafe," which comments on this trend in society and the decision of many parishes to join the coffee culture by opening their own cafes. Parishes that have the cafe are more than satisfied with the results. It is usually difficult to get volunteers to do service in the parish, but getting volunteers to help in the cafes has not been a problem; they are vying with each other to volunteer. Those who become baristas (those who make the coffee) have much to do, as do the other volunteers. Price is cheaper than in the ordinary coffee shops, and the profits go back to the community; this makes it worthwhile not only for the Christians but to all the residents in the neighborhood. Those who would usually come to Church only for Mass now come because of the cafe, which has helped  to make for fellowship among the Christians.

The opportunity these cafes present for evangelization cannot  be ignored.  Residents living near the parish also visit them, and it is not  difficult to see how this enables many of them to become interested in the Church. These cafes may well represent the next important direction to be taken by the Church in promoting its pastoral and evangelization programs.  Strengthening  the community and evangelization are two important goals the Church is currently seeking to implement. Getting involved with the cultural aspects of Korean life, as the Church is now doing by opening parish cafes, is a need that has been felt by many in the Church.

The Cafe is just one example of this acculturation. There are many other areas in which the Church can approach the larger community. Finding ways to be the yeast, salt and light to those we live with will always be the work of the Christian community.

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