Updated: Nov 18, 2018
Greetings! Fall seemed to come out of nowhere this year, kind of like spring did after our April blizzard. As the leaves start to fall, I will be blogging about hospitality and the church. What does it mean to welcome and invite people when they show up at our church?
I can tell you that if someone didn’t extend hospitality towards me some 20 years ago, I wouldn’t be the pastor of this church.
It was 1996. I had moved to Minnesota after spending four years in Washington, DC. That first year living in Minnesota was difficult. While I knew my uncle and aunt, I had to make new friends and I felt very lonely. I looked for a new place for a church home. I tried a Presbyterian church, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. In early September, I went to First Christian Church in Minneapolis. I sat down, filled out the visitor card and listened to the church service. After worship I talked to a few people and then headed home.
That evening there was a knock on the door of my apartment in Northeast Minneapolis. It saw a bespectacled man in his 50s at the doorstep. He introduced himself, saying he got my visitor card and wanted to stop by. He hands me a packet about the church and the denomination, and bread! When you are a guy working at coffee shop for minimum wage, having someone give you food is wonderful.
I joined First Christian a few weeks later. After that, I went to seminary and decided to be ordained through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I got ordained, started a church, became an associate pastor at First Christian-Minneapolis and then pastor at First Christian St. Paul. All of that happened because one middle aged man stopped by to welcome me.
First Christian-St. Paul is a friendly church. It is one of the things that I love about this congregation. But we are called to go a step further to hospitality; to show that every person that enters the doors of the church matters to God and because they matter to God, they matter to us. Being hospitable means getting out of our comfort zones to tell the stranger that they matter to God.
A loaf of bread made a world of difference. What could happen when we extend a hand of welcome to those entering the doors of our church.
You will be hearing more about hospitality in the coming weeks. Until then, go and be the church in the world.
Dennis Sanders, Pastor