Hospitality

I must admit I tripped a little on this month’s theme of Hospitality. My first thought about it was something vague about serving coffee to guests. Then some half-memories surfaced from my stint many years ago of being a maid in a motel and the “hospitality” department, with an overtone of institutionalism that is somehow unsettling.

But our tradition asks us to go deeper into the substance of things, so I attempted to move beyond those initial thoughts and feelings. I found Dominique Christina’s distinction between definition and meaning (which she talked about in her sermon last Sunday) incredibly useful in this endeavor. My initial ideas of hospitality are my definition of it. But the meaning of it—that has so much more possibility.

In his Ploughshare article this month, Eric Bliss talks about the hospitality of giving of ourselves. Of noticing and engaging with other people. That idea resonated with me. I often struggle with that myself, the fear of being judged or rejected, and this kind of hospitality is a good reminder that it’s not about me. It’s about the other people, welcoming them, making room for them in our lives.

We have a wonderful opportunity as a community to practice hospitality this month—to enact it, as Dominique described. Beth Chronister, whom we hired as our ministerial resident/assistant minister, starts her work with us next week. At our next board meeting, we’ll be welcoming Beth with a “start-up” event facilitated by Nancy Bowen from the Mountain Desert District office of the UUA. We’ll be looking at how we can best work together and what our expectations and responsibilities are. Diving deeply into how we “make room” for Beth in our organization and governance structure and in our community. In other words, hospitality.

I love that our tradition pushes us to really look at our assumptions and initial responses to things. I invite you to consider what hospitality means in your life, and how we as a community can practice radical hospitality in welcoming Beth—and each other—into our lives.

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