from the Committee on Ministry and Counsel
(this month provided by Membership and Outreach Committee)
Our Membership and Outreach Committee offers selected passages from an article published in Friends Journal ten years ago but ripe with wisdom for today. We feel they capture our own sense of mission in welcoming newcomers to our Meeting and that they reflect the kind of welcome all Friends wish to offer new arrivals in our midst.
Nancy Fennell is a member of Fort Myers, Florida Meeting. She is a retired clinical psychologist and has studied at the School of the Spirit. We appreciate her generous granting of permission to reprint these passages from her article.
~ Lynn Drickamer
Hospitality in the Manner of Friends
By Nancy Fennell (Friends Journal, July 2005)
Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:9-10)
For Friends, hospitality is a serious ministry and rests upon a deep base. Quaker wisdom holds that when a guest or visitor walks through our meetinghouse door, some reflection or revelation of Spirit has arrived in our midst. One whom God loves deeply and infinitely has come to be with us. A gift has been sent. We hold to that deep understanding, and keep it in the front of our minds. We approach to receive our gift with open hearts and great joy. We seek to connect with that of God in our visitor.
In a chapter on hospitality in Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen speaks clearly to our condition. He states that we seek “to offer an open and hospitable space where strangers can cast off their strangeness and become our fellow human beings.” We must greet our visitor gratefully, never losing sight of love as our guiding and grounding force.
Hospitality involves action. It is a doing, a practice.
We share that which is most precious to us – our worship.
[At rise of meeting for worship], we give our attention and kind, genuine interest. We share respect by listening deeply and solely to our guest. We share companionship.
The common and simple act of serving refreshments during our socialization time is a powerful gesture of hospitality. Across all cultures and all generations, the act of giving food and drink, no matter how modest, symbolizes giving the gift of life. Refreshment offers sustenance and comfort, both critical to our well-being. When we share bread together we are extending an age-old offering of love.
The stranger is a gift, whether coming for an hour or a lifetime. Perhaps the visitor brings us a message, or a teaching sorely needed by the meeting. Perhaps a request is brought, offering us an occasion to participate in God’s work in the wider world. At the very least, the stranger brings us an opening, an opportunity, a chance – as Peter tells us – to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”