Friday, April 01, 2011


Is hospitality a gift a or a craft? A skill to be learned or an attitude?

I've been thinking about this over the last few days. I heard of a person who lived in a nice house who wouldn't consider offering his home as a venue for a small Bible-study group. Too risky. A couple then told me that inviting some people round for dinner was outside their comfort zone. Another man lamented that people never dropped round for a cup of tea in this town. A while back someone told me they would have me round for a meal as soon as the en-suite was finished. 'I'll go home when I need the loo' was not received well.

So let me tell you about some people I know. Take your shoes and socks off people they are holy ground.

Person one held a house-warming party. I wasn't there but it has passed down into folklore that when people arrived they were surprised to see underpants drying on a rack by the fire.

Person two constantly has a house full of visitors. Popping round you may bump into people wearing court-ordered leg-tags, drug users, guys with convictions for violent offences and middle-class teenagers doing a Bible study. In the midst of this the lady of the house will be sitting on the sofa, reading a book and drinking tea.

It seems to me that the trick of being hospitable is relationship. Come and join me as I am. The whole business of sharing home yesterday with eleven people for lunch and about the same for supper was the better for watching how people treat the house as if they live there, being careful about things I care about and helping stir the pot, lay the table and clear the dishes. It was great.

B separated from his wife and was homeless. He moved in with us for six months and one of our sons gave up his bedroom and shared with his brother. P got a job at a local shop but had no address after her landlord threw her out because she had no money because she had no job. She stayed a few months. Sons made the sacrifice again. Finally C wanted to finish her studies in the town where she lived but her parents wanted to move. She moved in with us for a few months. We were not in the habit of drying our pants by the fire or particularly in touch with the tagged but we didn't tidy up before they moved in. And for those who know how we live now; we were not always this tidy. Five bedroom vicarages are generous space for two.

I think I've answered my own question. People are more important than things. Suss that out and you will never hesitate before welcoming people in. How do you, as a Christian minister, value people in their own right and not simply treat them as evangelism-fodder? Feed them. For no reason. There is no skill whatsoever involved in being hospitable unless you haven't got the hang of showing people the real you yet? Then you're in big trouble. If you're living a lie you can never have people drop in.

If I'm in the door is usually open. Ring the bell and walk in. Really. If you want to stay to supper you may get given a job to do. Like cooking it.

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