Thursday, 19 January 2017

Hospitality



The word for this week, and indeed as you know from my last blog, my word for the year is “hospitality.”  I am reminded of the verse from Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  I certainly know that those who extend hospitality often function as angels in our lives.  That unexpected offer of kindness, the stranger who goes out of their way to do something helpful, the connections that get made over a shared experience are such a gift.

I am currently benefiting from a fabulous gift of hospitality in Minneapolis.  A couple of years ago friends introduced us to an organization called “The Affordable Travel Club” where people offer to host others, with accommodation and breakfast in their home.  There are members all across the world.  Paul and I joined in September and hosted our first guests in the fall; two really nice folks from Regina who were on a cross country trip. We happily welcomed them to our home, shared wine and conversation, gave them a place to sleep and breakfast each day.  It was lovely. In conversation we found out that a few nights earlier they had stayed in Fredericton with the friends of ours who had introduced us to the club.

When I was making plans to come to Minneapolis and looking at the very high cost of staying in a hotel, I contacted folks in the club who lived not far from the conference site to see if I could stay.  They graciously said yes, to having a guest for 4 nights.  I arrived yesterday afternoon and was so warmly welcomed.  Although there is no expectation of any meals except breakfast, my hosts insisted on sharing a simple supper of soup and salad, followed by a delicious cheesecake.  I have been made most welcome.  

In an age of fear and suspicion, it is nice to know that there are people who still function on assumptions of kindness and hospitality – for whom a stranger is just a friend you haven’t yet met.  Sure it is a little scary to both welcome strangers into your home, or to be welcomed – but within minutes, the gift of hospitality can break down barriers and new relationships can be established.

I remember many years ago, before cell phones were even invented, Paul and I were on our way back from Winnipeg and the car broke down late at night outside of Thunder Bay.  We were walking up to a house, in the dark of night to see if we could use a phone to call a cab to take us to  a hotel for the night with plans to deal with the car in the morning. Before we got to the door, it opened - these folks had heard the loud sound the car made when it broke down.  We explained our predicament and they insisted that we stay with them the night and they would help us get the car to the dealership in the morning.  Grateful for their offer we did stay the night.  In the morning they refused money and helped us on our way.  It is a gift of hospitality I still remember with gratitude more than 30 years later.

Back to the present, as I was getting to know my hosts yesterday I discovered that the nice folks from Regina who stayed with us last fall, had also stayed with them earlier on their trip.  It was another interesting connection.

My hosts looked up a few things that I might be interested in doing when I was in downtown St Paul and one of them was a free concert at the Landmark Center next to the Conference site.  


 I have just come from the most marvelous free concert – another lovely gift of hospitality and now I am enjoying the hospitality of the library as I wait to register for the conference.

Basic human hospitality helps make us and the world a much better place.  I am looking forward to seeing the many wonderous ways I can both extend and receive hospitality this year.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Change



On Epiphany Sunday 2016 I joined my colleague the Rev Catherine MacDonald and the people of the Elmsdale Pastoral Charge as they began a 30 month Interim ministry together.  As part of the transition team it seemed like a great opportunity to join them for worship.  As part of the service, Catherine invited people to choose “star words”.  The word I chose was “change” and in many ways it has been my guiding word for the year.   



At the time I chose it, we had just found out that Jennifer was pregnant and that set in motion a great deal of reflection on my future plans, culminating in the decision to leave Cole Harbour Woodside church at the end of June, after 26 years – to seek a change in pastoral relations, with no real idea what that would mean.  Jen’s news changed later in January when she found out she had miscarried and then news came in April that she was pregnant again. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions.

Shortly after announcing my decision to leave Cole Harbour, two wonderful opportunities came my way; to do a short term appointment in the Waverly Pastoral charge while their minister was on paternity leave and to cover for the Formation Director at AST while Sally Shaw was on sabbatical.

I enjoyed a wonderful trip to France; a concluding service in Cole Harbour Woodside with Kim and Mitch home from Fredericton and Jen and Justin home from Baltimore; a summer spent at the cottage with ten days in Berwick and then a very busy fall balancing 3 part time positions.

Paul turned 60 in September and the six of us were together again in Baltimore for a fun filled week and in October I happily accepted a 3 year half time faculty appointment at AST to begin on January 1st 2017.  

Continuing the theme of change, plans changed dramatically on November 12th when Jennifer called to say that the baby was coming 4 weeks early – in the space of 12 hours I made it from the cottage in Shelburne to the hospital in Baltimore in time to see William Paul White make his way into the world. What an amazing and holy experience.  A week in Baltimore, back home to finish work responsibilities, a quick trip to Calgary and back to Baltimore for the month of December. 

Christmas was a huge change this year, not leading worship, not spending it with my parents, sister and family as well as Kim and Mitch.  That said, snuggling with Will in the light of the Christmas tree was pretty amazing.

I came home on January 3rd to start my new half time position at AST and reconnect with everyone here.  It was a year of change in many ways and yet the things that are most important, love, family, friendship, and a sense of meaning and contentment have all remained the same.

Catherine MacDonald once again offered star words to those who were interested.  My word for 2017 is “Hospitality.” What a great word and I look forward to seeing how that is lived out in these next 12 months.  I’ll think about that for next week as I get back into the habit of a weekly blog.

Blessings to all of you as we enter into this New Year.

Milan

Our last day in Italy was spent in Milan visiting 4 very impressive sites. We started at the Cathedral which is the 4th largest in the wo...