This is usually the bit where our Vicar, Mark, writes a letter to the Parish. This month (September 2014), however, he has invited me, Hils, your placement student to write to you. I have had the privilege of spending the month of September in the Parish of Lady Bay in a more concentrated form, following Mark around and seeing what he does in his role of Vicar. I have also had fun gatecrashing the Open House Communion service, Coffee Shop, and some of the small groups, as well as a fun lunch at the Lady Bay pub, where I was treated to a knickerbocker glory with a sparkler in it!
Throughout the month so far I have really enjoyed getting to know the fine folk of All Hallows Church a bit better. I have really enjoyed being a guest of the church and receiving hospitality.
This whole topic of hospitality is something that I feel God has been speaking to me about recently. In Luke 10, which some of us have been looking at as part of Dwelling in the Word, Jesus taught His disciples to go into people's homes. He tells us to ‘eat what is set before us’ and be good guests! And so I have been thinking about what it means to be a good guest, and receive the hospitality of others. Often, I think, we associate mission with offering hospitality, rather than just receiving it. Sometimes it is difficult to receive hospitality.
Today as part of following Mark around, I joined him at a meeting with other mission leaders in the centre of Birmingham. When the meeting had finished we were walking back to the station and we passed a young man selling the Big Issue. Mark had donned his dog collar for the occasion, and the man saw it and called after him. We started chatting to him and he gave us a badge each, advertising an event that was happening in Birmingham at the weekend. He then told us his story of addiction and rehabilitation, but that he had since become very ill and his future was uncertain. At no point, though, did he ask us to buy a Big Issue.
After we had spoken to him we were humbled. This young man had given us hospitality in the form of a badge, and his story. He expected nothing of us in return. We prayed for him whilst standing on the streets of Birmingham.
One thing that I have learned from my time so far at ‘vicar school’ is that someone’s story is a treasure. Today we received a treasure that is precious to that young man, to us, and to God. Hospitality can come in many forms and it is a real pleasure to have heard some of your stories whilst on placement at All Hallows this month. We all have a story, and that story is precious.
There is a lot happening at All Hallows at the moment. The Partnership for Missional Church continues as we experiment with practices such as Dwelling in the Word, enabling us to listen to God and to each other as he speaks to us through Scripture. This has not been easy, especially in the context of the 9.30 service, and we have realised that the 9.30 service is probably not the best setting to do this. We will continue to Dwell in the Word at other times, and everybody is invited to participate in this… I love listening to people sharing with me what they have learnt, puzzled over or wrestled with whilst doing this.
We also look forward to welcoming the Community Mission Pathway students and their families as they arrive in Lady Bay. Here is a perfect opportunity to give and receive hospitality and share our stories, our treasure, with one another. We continue to pray for all the new students as they arrive and are welcomed to All Hallows.
And so this concludes my message to you today. Just a few questions for you to ponder:
What is your story? How does it feel to hear that your story is a treasure? How can you celebrate your story and those of others around you?
How have you given and received hospitality this week? Which for you is more difficult – giving or receiving?
With love from Hils