I have been thinking a lot about hospitality and generosity since I started as minister here in September.
Firstly, my family and I have been so warmly welcomed, with many kind words and an amazing cake (not to mention a great meal at The Rose and Crown). We are all very grateful for this, and I already feel at home here. I know other newcomers to the church have felt a similar sense of welcome (although perhaps not everyone gets a cake with their name on it!)
Secondly, we have celebrated our Harvest Festival. I was genuinely overwhelmed by how beautiful the displays were, by the obvious love and creativity and generosity which went into them, and by the gifts which people brought to share with the Foodbank, and to raise funds for the work of All We Can.
And as I write this article, I am sat in our fantastic Community Café, eating one of the delicious gingerbread bunnies which are given away to any children who visit, and supping on an excellent (but very good value!) mug of filter coffee. Around me, people of all ages seem relaxed, welcomed and at home, the team keeping an eye out for newcomers and catching up with friends, old and new. In the Bible and throughout the history of the Christian faith, there is a strong tradition pointing to the importance of hospitality and generosity. There are hundreds of verses which we could have looked at, but one particular scripture which we considered during our Harvest celebrations was from Deuteronomy;
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.”
I find this sort of principle to be both encouraging and challenging. Encouraging, because it feels like we’re already on the right track. And challenging, because I think if we take it seriously we will have to go deeper, and be stretched wider in what it means to be hospitable and generous in our personal lives and in the life of the church….to what extent are we motivated by hospitality and generosity in our response to the Syrian refugee crisis? To what extent are we motivated by hospitality and generosity in the use of our homes and finances? To what extent are we motivated by hospitality and generosity in how we embrace and encourage the participation of children in the life and worship of Histon Methodist Church? To what extent are we motivated by hospitality and generosity in the way we develop the building here for the use of all?
I don’t think there are straightforward responses to any of the issues, but as we commit them to God in prayer, and explore the possibilities with one another, perhaps we shall find some interesting and exciting ways forward…………… Simon