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Tea or coffee or ...?

Way back in the 1960s when the world was still black and white (colour wasn’t introduced until the late 1970s, a little-known fact by young people these days), two young English officers called John Larsson and John Gowans wrote a musical called ‘Take-Over Bid’. It was the first of 10 musicals they wrote between 1967 and 1990 that were performed around The Salvation Army world.


In their first musical a character called Gladys sang a jaunty little ditty that said, “Oh, there’s nothing like an Army cup of tea.”


She wasn’t suggesting Salvationists had some secret recipe for producing the best cup of tea ever. Rather, she was suggesting that ‘our’ cups of tea came with empathy and a listening ear, and at just the right time – the added extras beyond milk and sugar.


Many Salvationists today have totally cast off our tea-swilling heritage and have fallen in love with the liquid refreshment produced by brewing the seed from inside the fruit of the coffea plant – better known simply as coffee.


While, for many corps, Nescafe and Moccona rule supreme, an increasing number of corps are now purchasing their own expensive coffee machines and training members as baristas. We used to spend money on corps Bibles and train people how to use them, but now, apparently, good coffee is more important in a church.


Some corps, including my own, have cafes that operate through the week and serve as a vital link to members of the public and those using corps programs. While you can still get an Army cup of tea at these places, it’s coffee that rules supreme.


I don’t drink tea or coffee, and that immediately upsets many people, including some fellow officers I’ve mentioned this to. “How can you talk to someone at length and meaningfully without having a coffee?” they say. Stupid question, really. We open our mouths and, well … words come out.


As a young man, I would end up with friends at someone’s house and the host would ask if we wanted tea or coffee. People would start placing their orders and then I’d say, “Can I have a Milo?” People would look at me like I was an alien, and then someone would say, “Actually, can I have a Milo too?” and someone would add, “Ooh, me too; with an extra spoon of Milo on top.”


It was like they needed permission to be as immature and non-adult as me. Adults drink coffee; children drink Milo. Until one of the supposed adults asks for a Milo.


I think it might be time for the Australian Salvation Army to promote its local culture and serve more Milo. As it (almost) says in Matthew 5:41 – “If someone forces you to go one Milo with them, go two Milos.” I might get that verse printed on a T-shirt.


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos





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