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Crossing the Bar – Home by Another Way

As a teenager growing up in Jamaica, one of my favourite TV sitcom was ‘Cheers’ .From 1982 to 1993, Cheers was America’s television equivalent of the corner bar where everybody knows your name.


The cast includes laid-back Sam Malone, a former relief pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who owns and runs Cheers, a cozy bar in Boston. He hires smart, uptight — and jilted — Diane Chambers as a server, out of sympathy, but their attraction causes constant bickering. Wacky characters fill the bar: sarcastic waitress Carla, beer-loving accountant Norm, know-it-all postman Cliff. When Diane leaves Boston much later, Sam sells the bar, buys a boat and sails the world, but his boat sinks, so he returns. New, ambitious manager Rebecca Howe hires him back, but they love to hate each other too.

Why am I telling you about Cheers? In 2014 I spent a year doing voluntary work in Cape Town – South Africa. After 2 months of feeling home sick, my priest from my local church in the UK who was on holiday in South Africa took me to this coffee bar on St George’s Mall called ‘Motherland’. He assured me they serve good coffee. I thought it was a very strange name for a coffee bar but this was later explained to me. South Africa being the Motherland and Cape Town the Mother City. The well known joke is that it takes 9 months to get anything done in Cape Town thus the reason why it is called the Mother City.

On my first visit to Motherland, I remember sitting outside and ordering iced latte on recommendation from my priest as the weather was scorching hot! I am not a latte but a cappuccino drinker. In fact, up to that point I’ve never drank latte. I politely obeyed my priest and had iced latte. My response was this was the worst drink I’ve ever tasted and wasn’t sure I wanted to visit this place again.

A few days later I decided to give it another try and was at Motherland again ordering a cappuccino and this laid back ‘Sam Malone’ called Alistair who owns the coffee shop served up the best cup of cappuccino I’ve ever tasted. Not only that he told me I could come at anytime and use the WiFi. The optimistic and skeptical sides of me thought what a nice guy and what does he want. Anyway I accepted his offer and Motherland became my mobile office where I spent the day doing research, drinking great coffee and chatting to some amazing and friendly baristas called Big Joe, Rasta, Gabriel, Small Boy and others. These guys knew how to make coffee served up with love, to your specification and taste thus the Motherland slogan ‘Drink the Love’. Not only that they know your name.

Yet still that wasn’t the reason why I became a regular at Motherland, drinking coffee, having my breakfast lunch there and dinner too. It’s the place where I invited all my friends for coffee and had my leaving do when I left Cape Town in January 2015.

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So what is the main reason why I keep going back to Motherland time and time again? Well here’s the story. One day while there doing my research, I felt really tired and needed a break so I packed my laptop and went to the till to pay for my lunch. Alistair asked whether I was coming back and I said yes. He then said ‘Don’t worry you can pay when you get back’. Honestly, I was surprised as one could easily walked along St George’s Mall and never returned but I felt so honoured that he trusted me, I didn’t. Alistair is far from the local Sam. Don’t be fooled by his management exterior and don’t ignore that as well. I’ve experienced both but that’s another story to tell.  He has a big heart for the homeless and disadvantaged in our society. You can see him at times walking from behind the coffee bar , discreetly and without drawing attention to himself handing a homeless person a bag with something to eat, having his motor bike cleaned too often or buying pens he doesn’t need to to support a homeless person.

The food is great, the coffee is top class. My favourite drink apart from cappuccino is the blended ice coffee and I’ve tried it with the various flavourings , cinnamon and caramel. As I’m gluten intolerant I can order salads on the menu to my specification omitting all the gluten products.

This is a place where I can pop in when I need to take time out to chill, relax and reflect. Here I can run to when things become a bit hectic and I’m feeling homesick. Here I can chat to some friendly faces even leave my bags with the guys when I have some extra errands to run around Cape Town (not to be encouraged). It’s my special place and I guarantee you that I will be smiling as I leave. I’m still yet to convince Alistair that I have shares in Motherland for all the business development ideas I’ve given him during our conversations but that will be in 2073 I am told. You may have guessed that  will be when I’m long dead – left this planet i.e.56 years from now. I doubt I will live to be 106 years old and sadly I have no children to claim my legacy.

After 2 years in the UK I’m back again in Cape Town hanging out at my favourite place. The staff are new and I still miss the old team but we still have Small Boy – Luvuyo , Freedom and Vuyeletu. Now there is Sino, Sonny and Justin and I must confess some of the other names I’m still learning. It’s nice to know that they all know my name. I actually feel like a part of the furniture.

To top it all off Motherland has now opened a Brewers next door serving up some great burgers, hot dogs and tacos along with a wide selection of  the best tasting craft beers, ciders and wines.  I am not a beer drinker (being gluten intolerant) but I guarantee you that Freedom will leave you thirsty for beer just listening to him describing the varieties of craft beers on tap and suggesting you try a taster tray. They are a great team with customer service skills as well.

You’ll find me frequently in the Brewers section doing research, writing my Sunday prayers or preparing bible study for the cell group at church over an open burger and a glass of cider. They serve the  tastiest chips, fish salad ( my invention) an open dog, fish or bean corn tacos, specially catering for my gluten free palate.

Here I meet people from all over the globe. Motherland is located in the heart of Cape Town business district  next to Mandela Rhodes hotel  and near to the Taj Hotel and St Georges Mall where tourist frequently visit. There is a popular farmer’s market on St George’s Mall every Thursdays which add to the vibz. When I step into Motherland I feel at home, loved and safe. It’s my little haven and a place where I can just be – a home away from home.

How can a Christian find solace in a brewers? I hear you say.
A few years ago one of my spiritual mentor gave me a book  entitled ‘Crossing The Bar – Home By Another Way’ – James G. Johnson. The book is about the people and stories from the life of  a pastor who became a bar tender.


I love this book because it is real. Unfortunately I’ve left it in the UK for fear of lending it to someone and losing it as I am very attached to my books. It includes stories of local non-church goers who frequently visit the bar and share their stories with Jim – the bar owner. They frequently make jokes about a previous pastor who now serves up beer to his congregation.

So these two guys walk into a bar and stop in their tracks: “Oh no, by bartender is a preacher!” one thinks, while the other is thinking, “oh no, my pastor is a bartender…” If you want to sit in on a conversation with a bartender who is a pastor, this book is for you. If you want to take a journey filled with stories and insights born of the joining together of these two worlds, you will find such things contained in these pages. Crossing the Bar: Home by Another Way is written for the church, yet for the sake of those beyond its well established boundaries. It is a book about God’s love, our freedom within that love, and hope yet to be established in the lives of people the church often ignores, but who are precious to God, and for whom God never ceases to seek.

It doesn’t stop there as Jim also runs a local bible study for his customers with unanswered questions in a relaxed, non obligatory atmosphere. People who have no interest in religion or skeptical about God and faith find solace in this group and some came to faith in the end. A must read!

There’s a joke between me and Alistair that he is blessed just by having me sitting in Motherland, doing my bible studies and writing my prayers. I’m sure this has  increased his sales and customer base as well.

Why am introducing you to this book?

Some Christian may find it difficult to swallow the idea of me being in a bar – doing theology on tap. In fact I’ve had a few remarks like ‘This is where you do mission?’ ‘How could you be doing bible study and writing prayers in such an ‘ungodly’ place?

God is everywhere – he is omnipresent and found not only in our so called ‘religious spaces’ but in our everyday lives and conversations. Matthew 11: 19 states “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” This is actually one of the many conversations I had with the guys behind the bar who think I need to teach some Christians to think outside the box – to be more free and open minded. So last week I took my church cell group to Motherland for our first ‘Theology on Tap’ session which went very well.

Motherland is the place where the Jamaican meets the British in South Africa, joining in fusion to find my voice.  The spiritual and the physical moves freely with each other and create my dance. I know you’re thinking that’s a bit deep for a brewers but it’s real.

A friend of mine recently said to me ‘Karen, you’re a lovely lady but your theology is warped’ Mmmm! Maybe so, or maybe my friend just need to have a little more faith and trust God to move in every circumstances.

Remember I’ve likened Motherland to my favourite sitcom ‘Cheers’ at the start of this blog. The story of ‘Cheers’ is based on people going through a hectic and stressful day who have found home and solace in the fellowship of each other in a cozy bar in Boston –  away from all the stress and hustle and bustle of life and work.

The lyrics of the Cheers theme song sums it all up:

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

That’s what Motherland is to me. So pop in and ‘Drink the Love’ , experience the love and have a few craft beers, wines and ciders as well along with great burgers, tacos and dogs to compliment. Who knows you may even get a free beer.  I’m not encouraging anyone to drink – every thing in moderation. I am just getting you to chill and step outside the box. You may just find God there. It doesn’t have to be in a coffee shop or a brewers but if you do, you may just be crossing the bar and finding your way home.

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Motherland Coffee Company and Motherland Brewers are located between St George’s Mall and Mandela Rhodes Place. The coffee shop opens on weekdays 7am – 6pm , Saturdays 08.30 am – 5.00 pm and Sundays & public holiday 09.00 am – 3.00 pm

Motherland Brewers next door opens from 12 noon – 10 pm weekdays and until 8 pm on Saturday. Closed on Sundays.

Visit our website: http://www.motherlandcoffee.com/

Like us on Facebook @motherlandcoffee  and @mothelandbrewers


To the garagistes and the daredevils, the re-inventors and the curious craftsmen. To the resolute rebels, the stubborn and strong willed. The brewers who trust in science but believe in art, unafraid to back their crazy genius.

To the bold, brave fringe explorers.
We celebrate you.

‘Drink the Love’.


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