Simple hospitality, abundant grace
Last Sunday at Christ Church we enjoyed the Blessing of Animals at our 10:30 service. About 20 minutes before the service started, I was bustling through the narthex on my way outside to greet folks as they arrived. One of our greeters was headed the other way, and she responded to my “Good morning!” with “Good morning! I’m just on my way to help a new family get settled.” She was clutching service leaflets and one of our crayon/coloring bags. I turned and followed.
In a few steps, I was standing at the rear of the nave, at the aisle. I was introduced to a mom and her daughter, our guests for the first time. They had been attending a Roman Catholic church, and they were looking for something else. As I walked up, I noticed that one of our adult acolytes was bent low near the table where the gifts wait to be brought forward. She was showing the daughter that we use “real” bread for Holy Communion, as she explained that the daughter would be welcome to receive Communion — something she wasn’t used to doing in her own church. This simple gesture took hospitality beyond words (“We’re glad you are here”) to deeds. And it gets better.
I struck up a conversation, and I explained that we don’t always have dogs, cats, and assorted animals with us on Sundays. This was a special once-a-year day. I mentioned that we also blessed stuffed animals. The acolyte then said, “Hey, I think we have an extra stuffed animal out in our car. Would you like me to get it for you so you can come forward and receive a blessing too?”
When it was time for the blessings, the acolyte’s grand-daughter came forward with her stuffed animal for a blessing. She had taken our young guest under her wing, and she was there too with a borrowed beast. When there is hospitality, blessings follow. Literally, this time.
I left church feeling very grateful on Sunday. The front of our church bears the famous quote from St. Benedict, “Let all guests who come we welcomed as Christ.” I was glad that on this day, we managed to do just that.
Hospitality is a lot more than a smile and a hello, though those are essential beginnings. True hospitality leads us to lift the covering to reveal the bread of blessing. True hospitality means that we are willing to make an extra trip to the car for a token of love. True hospitality means offering our guests the finest we have, hoping that we can feed their hunger for God’s presence, for grace.
I’m pretty sure we’ll see our guests again. And now they’ll know how we like to welcome people. As we receive the warmth of true welcome, we look for opportunities to share our blessings with others. Simple hospitality leads to abundant grace.