Benedictines are known for their hospitality and I appreciated the generous, gracious hospitality extended to us as we stayed at the Monastery at Rostrevor. Brother Thierry, the guestmaster was delightfully patient, there were no glaring looks when I managed to knock the service book off the pew a couple of times and the food was delicious, wholesome and something to look forward to! All these things and more helped me to feel welcomed, embraced, included and nurtured. Although I am not sure that I go on retreat to feel pampered it is lovely to feel cared for when in a role where you do a lot of caring for others.
I love the writing of Parker J Palmer who talks about creating a space for learning in a way which can be applied to worship and a whole host of other things too. Part of how Paul became a Christian was the generous and gracious hospitality he experienced from Christian families at Grays Tabernacle. Part of what we try and offer at Hodge Hill Church where I am a Curate is this same generous and gracious hospitality.
In writing this I know I am stating the obvious but it is very easy to forget how important it is to welcome the stranger because we are distracted by other things. The Bible is very clear on the importance of hospitality and this is probably my favourite verse on the topic:
Hebrews 13.1 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
If we welcome people as angels or Christ as the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46) encourages us to then they will get a taste of that generous, gracious hospitality that is a sign of the kingdom.
Palmer, Parker J. (1993) To Know as We are Known. Education as a spiritual journey. San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco.