(Parish Newsletter Article for February)
Apparently a group of scientists have determined that the third Monday in January is the gloomiest day of the year. (It has something to do with the Holidays being over, the darkness of the sky and the dreariness of the weather, the bills from Christmas coming due and the failure of many of our New Year’s resolutions…) I’m writing this to you on the third Monday of January.
It’s a dreary day, overcast and cold. There’s a drizzly rain falling. And yet, just down the hall from where I sit, there are a number of our sisters and brothers working away in the kitchen making lunch for folks who are sitting in the hallway of the building getting out of the rain. It may be dark and miserable outside, but it is not that way on the inside.
Many of the guests we have in our Soup Kitchen are here because they are hungry and can’t afford a decent hot meal. Others are here because they are sick and can’t easily put a meal together for themselves. A number are here because they are lonely. They aren’t here for the food but to get a chance to see another person today and to have someone greet them hello. All of these people are drawn inside on this grey day because they know that we have made a commitment to welcoming them into our building.
This isn’t the only form of hospitality that this parish practices, but it is one of the most obvious. But we offer our hospitality on Sunday mornings by welcoming newcommers as best we can. We do it by providing the best worship and music that we create. We care for the children who worship with us by trying to have a clean and attractive Sunday School area and age appropriate toys and activities in the nave. We care for folks who are attending one of the concerts or other special events held here by putting on an attractive reception.
Mother Laura and I have been talking a great deal lately about ministries of Hospitality. Mother comes at it through her experiences as an Oblate in a Benedictine religious order. (The Benedictine Order has always placed a strong emphasis on the ministry of hospitality to all.) My own sense of it is probably more cultural than it is theological in origin – but I suppose there is also a stand of social justice embedded as well. We who have been entrusted with so much are called constantly share of our riches.
But no matter how we arrive at our understanding of the need for hospitality, at its core, hospitality is about making the Kingdom of God real to people in this moment. Hospitality is about welcoming the stranger into our midst. It is about inviting them to join with us at the table of God and to be fed with food that transforms us into new creatures.
Trinity, as a community of believers, has in one way or another always seen Hospitality as central to its life as a parish community. I pray that we will never stop welcoming the outsider and the lonely into our midst. Most importantly I pray that we will all be constantly alert to recognize the opportunity to show God’s radical hospitality to the people we meet in our every day life. Especially on gloomy days like this.
God’s blessing on you this month.