Friday, June 1, 2007

true hospitality

One of my big projects at church has been to put together a monthly concert series. My church is downtown, so we've designed the series such that downtown workers can take their noon lunchbreak, walk on over to the church, hear about 20 minutes of beautiful music, go downstairs for a free meal, and be back to their offices by 1:00. It's been a big success--well, relatively speaking. We have quite a few "regulars," people working in these huge companies who tell me how much it means to them to have a place like this to come to once in a while.

Today was especially fun for me. First, I woke up with some energy--first time in over two weeks. Second, my dear friends C. and R. came--always SO great to see them! We even got to catch up a little during lunch. And third, I just had a sense of how much I like people and enjoy being a minister, providing a welcoming space for people to be.


I have 'learned' the sense of hospitality that I want to provide for people by experiencing it from others -- in no small part, in fact, from C. and R. When I walk into their home I know I'll be totally accepted. If I do or say something stupid I know I won't be judged. My desire to be authentic and real is appreciated in their home, valued.


There's something else, though. This kind of deep hospitality isn't tied to place...C. and R. carry it with them wherever they go. I called C. the other day on the phone, just spontaneously, not aware of why exactly. As we spoke, and as I reflected later, I realized that I had called her because I longed for a sense of comforting. I was so tired, with yet another meeting on my calendar before I could go home, afraid I'd gone back to work too soon, unsure that I'd ever be able to get everything done in time. And we just talked. But as we talked, underneath it all, I felt held.

And in the holding, renewed.

How does deep hospitality like this happen? Well, we've been friends now for years. Shared powerful experiences. Hold similar life-values. Weathered hurt feelings. Confided vulnerabilities and pain. And yet the deep hospitality that I feel from C. and R. is the same deep hospitality that I want to offer each stranger that walks in the door of my church once a month. I'm not sure that deep hospitality requires trust in the other person. I think the trust it requires is way beyond that. It's trust in the One who promises healing should the stranger turn and hurt me. It's trust in the One who promises connection should the stranger reject me. It's trust in the One who promises forgiveness should the stranger be hurt by some thoughtless act on my part.

True hospitality...it's not easy.

3 comments:

Jan said...

Your words about hospitality touched me, because God has been growing me in this area. For the past few years our weekly Renovare group has met at my house. I'd always worried that I was too messy to invite people over, and now a regular meeting happens here. Connected with this, I've also learned to visit friends in hospitals more often than once. Before my son had his appendectomy, I didn't know that people came to be with you in the hospital. At that time friends came to sit with us while Benjamin's surgery was going on. That helped me learn to be with people. . . and that I would not be "bothering" them by showing up.
I've heard of C. and R. through my friend JT and their quiet, sincere hospitality for the lectio group.

Katherine said...

Thanks, Jan.

Yes, being with people in the hospital is something I've had to learn to do. I remember my mother NEVER wanting any visitors, so now I always enter a room being over-sensitive, probably, to whether I'm welcomed.

Anonymous said...

Re: Hospitality (from C. and R.). We were deeply moved by reading your experience of our time together that Friday noon at your church. We felt the same hospitality from you at your church (and on many occasions) that you describe in us. I (C.) remember needing a listener and finding acceptance from you as you quietly heard my story. In your listening, my thoughts were clarified. Hospitality!

Writing a response to your lovely description of hospitality gives us an opportunity to ponder about hospitality. We remember the hospitality we felt at the Benedictine St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith. On our way home from our first visit, we asked one another, "What did they do to make us feel so at ease?" They were so honest; they were so real. We sensed a gift of SPACE for us to be ourselves, as they were themselves, no facades. To know that YOU feel that way in our home is a wonderful gift.

We especially like what you said about hospitality not requiring trust in the person to whom the space is given. When we feel that we have to trust someone to offer the hospitality then we’re putting limits on our relationship. It springs instead from trust in the Divine One who has offered the original hospitality. That One holds each of us.

R. and C.