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Monday, April 19, 2010

All About Hospitality: A Variation on the Monday Meet and Greet

For the third April in three years members of the RevGals and Pals are beginning a retreat called BE, for Big Event. The first year was a cruise and held many memorable moments – transformational moments – moments that point to the deep friendships and collegiality that the RevGals blog has brought to the lives of those who are “members.”

Today is the first day of the BE Three, the third retreat, taking place again on a cruise. Like years past there is a theme to the retreat, this year it’s “Hospitality.” Therefore our Monday Meet and Greet today will emphasize hospitality in its many forms.

What is hospitality to you, or to your faith community? How do we offer hospitality as individuals, as community, as bloggers? How do we experience hospitality?

To get us thinking I offer a couple of poems from Billy Collins and Mary Oliver who use nature as a way into the heart of hospitality.

This one from Mary Oliver called, “Acid” points us to ponder those places and times when others in the human family force us to take a good hard look at ourselves, whether we want to or not. For me that is one valuable aspect of community and hospitality – a chance to not only “look” at my self but better my self.

Acid (By Mary Oliver)

In Jakarta,
among the venders
of flowers and soft drinks,
I saw a child
with a hideous mouth,
and I knew the wound was made
for a way to stay alive...
once in a while you can creep out of you own life
and become someone else...
I will never see him
again, I suppose.
but what of this rag,
this shadow
flung like a boy's body
into the walls
of my mind, bleeding
their sour taste-
insult and anger,
the great movers?

Here’s one from Billy Collins that is a gentle invitation for one person to walk a familiar journey with another. It’s called


You know the brick path in back of the house,
the one you see from the kitchen window,
the one that bends around the far end of the garden
where all the yellow primroses are?
And you know how if you leave the path
and walk up into the woods you come
to a heap of rocks, probably pushed
down during the horrors of the Ice Age,
and a grove of tall hemlocks, dark green now
against the light-brown fallen leaves?
And farther on, you know
the small footbridge with the broken railing
and if you go beyond that you arrive
at the bottom of that sheep's head hill?
Well, if you start climbing, and you
might have to grab hold of a sapling
when the going gets steep,
you will eventually come to a long stone
ridge with a border of pine trees
which is as high as you can go
and a good enough place to stop.
The best time is late afternoon
when the sun strobes through
the columns of trees as you are hiking up,
and when you find an agreeable rock
to sit on, you will be able to see
the light pouring down into the woods
and breaking into the shapes and tones
of things and you will hear nothing
but a sprig of birdsong or the leafy
falling of a cone or nut through the trees,
and if this is your day you might even
spot a hare or feel the wing-beats of geese
driving overhead toward some destination.
But it is hard to speak of these things
how the voices of light enter the body
and begin to recite their stories
how the earth holds us painfully against
its breast made of humus and brambles
how we who will soon be gone regard
the entities that continue to return
greener than ever, spring water flowing
through a meadow and the shadows of clouds
passing over the hills and the ground
where we stand in the tremble of thought
taking the vast outside into ourselves.
Still, let me know before you set out.
Come knock on my door
and I will walk with you as far as the garden
with one hand on your shoulder.
I will even watch after you and not turn back
to the house until you disappear
into the crowd of maple and ash,
heading up toward the hill,
piercing the ground with your stick

- Billy Collins

And lastly another one (one of my favorite) from Mary Oliver called

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

What does Hospitality mean to you? Do you have a favorite poem or story, illustration, song or hymn that speaks of hospitality for you? If so post it on your blog and link us to it.

And let’s give a shout out of joy for those RevGals who are heading off to learn all about hospitality from Nanette and her book on the same theme.


  1. Here is a link, about hospitalilty from last year.

  2. Here's a sermon from Lent about hospitality. Hospitality is one of the areas of ministry our leaders discerned is one of their gifts. I preached through their 3 designated "gifts for ministry" during Lent, so this sermon was part of the series.

    The definition for hospitality that we have been using since this, coming from a few different readings, understandings, and ponderings (one of the main ones was a book some of us read last year, Radical Hospitality, by Father Daniel Homan and Lonni Collins Pratt), is this: "Ministries that welcome people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, meet them where they are in faith, and equip them for living their faith." By this definition we have included our education ministries as hospitality ministries.

  3. I am thinking about how organizations are hospitable or inhospitable to their own members. Workplaces, to their employees. Churches, to their members (I'm thinking active, longtime members whose needs may be ignored for the focus on attracting new members).
    Just thinking at this point.

  4. I have a case of teh envy...

    When I think of hospitality, I realize that I must first realize that there might be someone who wouldn't necessarily feel welcome, unless I went out of my way to help them feel at home. Sometimes it takes an invitation to bury differences...

    Makes me think of OneRepublic's song "Come Home"

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I thought about it some more and posted here.

  7. I'm thinking of how many churches say, "We are open, welcoming, and friendly!" and the member really believe that, because they the people they already know. But it is soooo hard for most of us to be genuinely hospitable--listening, caring, inviting, introducing--to people we don't know. Always a rub there.

  8. Betsy,exactly. I reflected on that a bit on my blog...

  9. It's like working at an ER and complaining about all of the sick people who show up...


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