Friday, May 25, 2018

Tea Lovers' Book Club: "The Way of Tea and Justice" by Becca Stevens

Summary: Reverend Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest, shares the story of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, social enterprises in Nashville, Tennessee, that minister to women recovering from violence, prostitution, and addiction.

My thoughts: As a Southern Baptist who happily lives smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, I must confess that I was more than a little nervous about reading a book with "Justice" in the title by a female Episcopal priest. I had plenty of preconceived notions about what this book might include, and to my absolute delight, I couldn't have been more wrong. This book was deep, it was thoughtful, it was challenging, and while the reverend and I do have a few theological hairs to split, I ended this book thinking how much I love this woman and how she's definitely a kindred spirit in the spiritual realm as well as the tea world. I'd love to visit the Thistle Stop Café, the tea room she birthed, and I'd love to be able to hear her speak one day as well.

The judgment: Read it, read it, read it. I had so many "wow" moments while reading this book that I hardly know where to begin. Here are a few:

• "When someone argues that prostitution is a choice … I always ask, 'What were the other choices?'"

• "Silence is the deep presence of truth, not the absence of words. The words 'nausea' and 'noise' come from the same root, and one of the greatest sicknesses is all the noise that fills our world and our heads. Noise keeps heaven at bay."

• "It is a Christian notion that an offering is poured out for the sake of the well-being of another. Tea becomes a symbol of the nature of sacrificial love. In the Gospels, Jesus said His blood was 'poured out' for the sake of forgiveness. We were created to be poured out. What if every time we poured a pot of tea for a stranger or friend, we were forgiving ourselves and others as freely as the leaves release their healing gifts?"

For discussion: While it's almost a given that tea parties and gatherings include only light conversation and happy topics, I must say I'm pleased to learn that teatime is also being used to help provide healing for women who have been rescued from prostitution and addiction. How do you feel about tea being used as a vehicle for "social justice"?

• If you've read the book, what did you think about the women's testimonies? Were you moved by any of them? If so, which ones?

• Stevens and her team faced a lot of obstacles on the way to opening their Thistle Stop Café. Would you have gotten discouraged? What do you think inspired them to continue?

Next Month's Book: A novel that's been in my Kindle queue for a while is The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies, so I'd love for some of you to join me in reading that during June!


  1. I have long been a fan of Becca Stevens and the work she is doing with the Magdalene program. I was doubly impressed with her when I discovered that she is also a person who appreciates the beauty of taking tea. I like your review of this book, Angela. In response, I will say that, in my mind, tea should be used in the name of social justice. I will spare you my preaching and sermon, and will simply say that while we take our lovely teas, we need to keep in mind the hard working (and often poorly treated) women who make it possible for us to afford this beverage.

    1. I’m quite sure I would like your sermon on this, Lynn! She had such a unique view on “fair trade” and “shared trade,” which I loved! Definitely makes me want to be a more conscious consumer!

  2. The paperback version of this book is currently on sale for $7.

    1. Thank you for this! I’ve already got several local friends in mind that I want to read this book, so I may need to buy it in bulk!

  3. I didn't read this one (busy month) but based on your review, I'd like to in the future. Thanks!

  4. I am also very interested in reading this book, since my episcopal priest is female, and my college professor female cousin is involved in social justice (especially rescue prostitution). And, I like tea!

  5. My library has only one copy of this book, and although I put myself on the waiting list a month ago, I was No. 8 on the list and my turn has still not come up. But after reading your review, I will definitely read it when I have the chance.
    --from Vernona in DC

  6. Coming from that sheltered Bible Belt , I am happy to hear you say this made you more aware of the world outside of that belt and people of all colors and walks of life , may your world become bigger ,


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