Category Archives: Hospitality

Newcomer or Old-Timer?

Snow shoes and Sauna mix well

This morning I visited my old running group for their annual mid-winter sauna run and brunch at a runner’s home.  It was my first time back since coming to Resurrection.  After our brief Bible study, most went for a six-mile run, while my friend Tim and I tried some snowshoe jogging on a nearby lake.  Gary, the host, loaned me his new shoe shows to try.  Tim and I weren’t fast, but we had a blast staying upright.   When we got back it was time for sauna, brunch and conversation. 

It was great fun seeing old friends, swapping stories and telling some tall tales.  Many of us have run together for more than eight years, so the stories have gained some embellishment over time.  Who amazed me this morning was a newcomer named Joe.   Tim had invited him after working out together at the Y.  Joe had never run with the group, only knew Tim (who did not run this morning) and had only a vague idea what would happen.   I like to think the running club provides great hospitality, but it always takes courage to walk into an established group, especially on such a social occasion.  Joe ran the six miles, enjoyed the sauna and brunch and smiled as we told our stories.  He plans to be back.

 As a new pastor in a young congregation, I sort of feel like Joe each Sunday morning.  I seek to fully participate, to learn names, and to listen to the stories.  People at Resurrection Lutheran Church have warmly welcomed me, that’s for sure.   I am excited to be with them.   Yet I am still the newcomer, without the history, the mileage that comes with time.  I want to race ahead, but right now it’s learning to be patient and consistently present.    

 I sort of wonder how the disciples felt after their first days with Jesus.  They knew exciting days were ahead, but each day held something of a surprise.  What was coming?   

Are you a newcomer, an old-timer, or somewhere-in-between in your faith community?  How does that affect your attitude and actions?

Getting Into It — Part III

The rain today drove me inside.  My friend Tim and I have been trying to get together all week, so finally I suggested that we meet for a spinning class this morning at the Woodbury YMCA.  I had attended only two previous classes, each time with Tim as my guide.   Naturally I was late getting out of the house, but I still minded the speed-limit as I drove to Woodbury.  I rushed into the locker room expecting to see Tim ready to go.  But there was no Tim, not in the locker room or the hallway or Studio 1.  

Tim's bike during the workout

As people pulled out cycles for the class, I pulled out two, expecting Tim to show any moment.  I tried to remember the instructions Tim gave me on how to set up my cycle for the best workout.  I kept looking at the door, expecting Tim to show.  But as the instructor began to start the class, I shifted my attention from Tim’s absence to my participation.  Soon I was “getting into it,” pushing my heart rate into my aerobic workout zone.  It was a good class.

As I reflected after the class, I think my experience is similar to newcomers at a church or Bible Study or prayer group.   We have an interest or curiosity, but we often need an invitation or guide to help us enter the new experience.   A friend, co-worker or neighbor invites us to worship and we sit with them during our first visit.  We closely watch their behavior, not wanting to do something embarrassing or upsetting.   If we enjoy it, then we are open to going back, perhaps with our guide.   Eventually we go on our own, comfortable in our knowledge that we can fully engage in the workout or the worship without our guide.  

As I walked out from the spinning class, I felt energized and also thankful that I can do the class by myself.  I called Tim to find out what had happened.  He misread the e-mail and thought the class was this afternoon.  We still need to get together for our weekly conversation.

Romans 14:1 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.

Have you ever been a guide for someone’s new experience?

Life of Pi


Life o Pi

Yesterday I wrote about a visit to a church in the novel Still Alice.  That scene stands in sharp contrast to the church visit  described in Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the other novel I am reading.  Whereas Alice receives little spiritual comfort from her short visit , Piscine (Pi) takes a much more patient approach to his visit.  He is a young teenager, who is on a spiritual quest in his native India.  While his family is on vacation, he climbs a hill to a Christian church and walks around it, afraid at first to enter.  Behind the church he discovers the rectory and from a hiding place, he secretly observes the parish priest inside.   After a period of observation Pi states,

“I was filled with a sense of peace.  But more than the setting, what arrested me was my intuitive understanding that he was there -open, patient – in case someone, anyone, should want to talk with him; a problem of the soul, a heaviness of the heart, a darkness of the conscience, he would listen with love.  He as a man whose profession it was to love, and he would offer comfort and guidance as best he could.” p. 52

Pi eventually walks into the rectory and has several long conversations with the priest.   Those conversation may be worthy of other posts, but the main point today is how does one prepare such an open, receptive setting for those who come on spiritual quests?  Would those seeking even come to a church today?  How do we practice true hospitality?

Still Alice

Still Alice

I recently finished the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  Alice Howland is a respected fifty-year-old Harvard professor of psychology who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her memory loss throws her whole life and family into a tail-spin.  One scene in particular, after her diagnosis, stood out for me.

Alice is a runner and she finishes a run outside an Episcopal church.  Though raised a Roman Catholic, Alice has no active faith.  Yet she feels an impulse to enter the church with some vague hope for help.  Inside, she reads from a banner, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”  She knows she has a great need for help, but “who is she to ask for help from a God she wasn’t sure she believed in?”   She hopes someone, a priest or parishioner, will come so that she might unload her burden.  No one comes. 

The scene haunts me because I believe so strongly that God is our refuge and strength.   There are no magic answers that will suddenly take Alice’s questions and fears away.  But there is the loving, powerful presence of God that carries people in the midst of their struggles.   I realize Still Alice is a novel, well written and thought-provoking.  I just pray that when someone with such questions or doubts walks into Resurrection Lutheran Church, there is someone who can bear loving witness to God’s compassion and care.

In what ways does your reading current fiction shape your faith?

Spin Class or Worship Newbie

Spin Class Bike

 A couple of weeks ago, my friend Tim invited me to a spinning class.  Usually when I go to a fitness gym, I work out by myself.  I use a treadmill or an elliptical machine for my cardio workout and then some weight machines for the strength portion. I like having my own routine and control as I work out.  A fitness class always seemed a bit too structured and I did not want to look foolish to the other participants as I learned the routine.

Tim encouraged me to come anyway. He assured me that it would be a fun and a new challenge.  He told me to bring a sweat towel, water bottle, and my bike shoes; he showed me how to adjust the bike to my body; and he introduced me to some of the regulars in the class.  He and the instructor told me that I could adjust the workout to my abilities and not to expect perfection immediately.  As the class progressed, I discovered that I needed to relax and simply “flow” with the others, taking breaks as I needed them.  By the end I was enjoying myself.  Last night I went back for my second class with Tim.   Now I feel ready to go to a class on my own, though I still plan to “spin” with Tim.

I think many people approach their first visit to a congregation for worship in a similar way.  They wonder if they will do or say something wrong.  They fear that they will not be welcomed nor helped if needed.   It was the encouragement and assistance of my friend Tim that made my first class a positive experience.   In the same way, it is the job or call of each regular worship attendee to welcome and assist the newbies at worship.   What I especially appreciated about Tim was not only the invitation to the class, but the willingness to assist me in my first class.    I pray that I can be as hospitable when I invite someone to worship at Resurrection. 

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.  Hebrews 13:2

Have you had a memorable first time worship experience?