Posts Tagged ‘hospitality’

We’ve not been feeding people all that much lately. I got a nasty virus after Christmas and seemed to lose steam all the way to Easter. Sunday lunches (our usual slot for planned hospitality) were confined to the Vicarage household plus Dreamer. And I almost began to think that it was too much hassle to have anyone else over on a Sunday at all.

But then, just a couple of weeks ago, we had a sunny weekend. And I was overcome with a desire to barbecue. And that seemed like an easier Sunday lunch to organise. So we invited a family we’d been meaning to invite over for ages. And then we thought about another family who we’d seen a lot over our Easter mission and the Vicar called them but they didn’t answer the phone. So then we invited someone else. And then the second family rang back. And we invited them too. And so it was that we ended up having 18 people for Sunday lunch.

And you know what? In the garden, with the old church hall trestle tables from the shed, lovely sunshine and lots of laughter, eighteen people seemed like a perfectly normal number. And after that, inviting a family of five for Sunday lunch this week didn’t seem like a big thing either. It was actually very lovely to talk to people and enjoy eating with them. Of course I knew that, but I’d forgotten. And then this week I read this lovely post about Scruffy Hospitality by Wesley Hill, and it helped me to remember that the purpose of hospitality is the cultivation of friendship, the sharing of lives. And cooking a bit of extra food is really not that much trouble. It really isn’t.

So I’m grateful this week for a renewed vision for hospitality: scruffy hospitality, messy hospitality, doable hospitality, just inviting people anyway hospitality, hospitality for the saints, hospitality for the stranger, hospitality without grumbling, hospitality that is a welcome and a blessing. And I’m praying that we’ll keep on getting together with the saints and with strangers, we’ll keep on inviting others into the Vicarage for laughing and talking and growing community, building the body. That’s my prayer this week.

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One of the things I love about Vicarage life is its unpredictability. Most of the time this is great fun – I love my morning to be interrupted by someone wanting to chat at the kitchen table, especially when there is housework to be done. But I have to confess that I find it a bit of a challenge when our Sunday evening is disturbed.

Sundays are obviously a busy day for us – the Vicar almost always preaches at all three services in our church and is often leading at a couple of them. We often have church family members over for lunch aswell, and sometimes an afternoon group for baptism preparation or something like that. So when we get to 8pm(ish) and the evening service is finished, the church locked up and the Vicar and Rocky returned to the Vicarage and the children all put to bed (though sadly not necessarily asleep now they’re a bit older) we like to be able to chat a bit, pray a bit, watch some undemanding telly, eat cheese and biscuits and drink a glass of red wine.

Our waif had a better haircut

But this week our usual routine was upset by a waif and stray with a bizarre story. Waif had come to the Vicarage at about 4pm wanting to speak to the Vicar. As our lunch guests were still here, the Vicar told him to come along to the evening service so they could chat then. And then after the service, Waif’s tale of woe came out. It involved ferries from Ireland, cash paid for tickets to the Man U-Barcelona Champions League final, B&Bs in random locations and strange train jouneys, culminating in Waif being in our parish on a Sunday evening with no money, no phone, no means of identification and needing a bed for the night.

His tale was so unbelievable, it might possibly have been true, but the main fact was that he needed somewhere to stay and was asking for our help.  I supplied the regulation cheese rolls and then we talked about accommodation. Although we have space here, accommodating complete strangers does not seem to be a wise undertaking. There is no homeless hostel in our town and not much of a chance of space being available in the Sally Army hostel in Birmingham. So in the end, the Vicar’s discretionary fund came into action. The Vicar drove him to a nearby pub with rooms, where he obtained B&B for Waif for a bargain £25.

And that was it. The Vicar returned to the Vicarage at 10pm and we ate late, went to bed late, and struggled to get started on Monday morning. All part of this strange and unpredictable life we have been called to, where the limits of our hospitality are regularly stretched. I think the Lord knew I needed a bit of a break after that though – on Monday morning we had two callers who sat drinking coffee with me so I could skive off the housework.

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So it seems we all love our mince pies and some of us really go to town and drink champers at our festive services. If we’ve not had to cancel them because of all the snow and ice. Sigh. Actually, we’ve had a very encouraging time here with our festive services. And are hoping that the most recent dump of snow followed by freezing conditions won’t dampen the enthusiasm of parishioners for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.

I hope this shows the main results okay for you – I’m trying a new way of displaying them which involves far less typing. As always, the ‘other’ category gave some fun and interesting answers. I think some of these answers locate the church – I’m guessing that the samosas aren’t on offer in a rural parish…

  • Stollen
  • Samosas
  • Sloe gin, apple juice, nuts, crisps etc
  • Fresh baked cookies
  • Yule log – we’re BIG fans!!

A single sad ‘other’ answer was that no refreshments were being served. I just hope that this was only because the respondent was thinking about the Midnight Communion service. Christmas is such a great time for God’s people to show expansive hospitality that I shudder when I think of churches who might not be taking up that opportunity.

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I’m not sure how many people is a crowd, but we did have 15 children in our garden on Saturday afternoon. A sunny day always draws the masses, but after the 20th (I am not exaggerating) ring on the doorbell, I did begin to get a little hysterical.

Thankfully, some of the kids were there with their mums, which meant I was able to sit outside and enjoy a coffee with them and not feel that I had sole supervision responsibility. The bigger kids who were after bike mending spanners did not gain garden admittance. But they rang at least four times.

The trampoline can get a little crowded

The trampoline can get a little crowded

We have the largest garden in the neighbourhood, a trampoline and a monkey swing and sociable kids, so it’s no surprise that they all want to come and play. Folk don’t arrange playdates or invite their children’s friends over for tea in the inner city – the kids seem to arrange the social diaries themselves. If I’m feeling up to it I’ll let most of them in, but I’m feeling a need to reapply my Vicarage and garden entry rules. Am I missing any?

  1. No entry without me seeing you come in.
  2. No entry if my kids are not in the mood.
  3. No entry if I haven’t met your mum/nan/carer (I didn’t apply this rigorously enough yesterday).
  4. You go home when I say.
  5. Shoes off indoors.
  6. Be kind to everyone.
  7. Speak in a way that pleases God.

We want to be hospitable to the local children – we have a hospitable God who invites us to eat at his table, and we want to reflect his character. It’s a challenge for me to be graciously inviting all the time though. And so on Sunday I lacked grace with a doorstep caller. I am praying that I will remember God’s welcome more and more so that I am able to share it in increasing measure.

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