Besides the transcendent moment in the rain with dear new Friends I wrote about in my last blogpost, and Nanbee’s workshop, the activity I enjoyed most about NCYM-C was morning Bible Study led by Deborah S. The theme for the yearly gathering was Radical Hospitality and Deborah chose individual verses which addressed this theme. Each morning she would give us a printed copy of the day’s verse. We would settle into worship and she would break the silence by reading the verse twice (one day she sang it, too). After that, she had us turn to our neighbor and, in pairs, share what words, images, or ideas arose in our hearts.
I don’t specifically remember each day’s verse but what came to me around Hospitality remains fresh. What occurred to me was how important it is for me to be centered and grounded when I welcome people. It happens that because of my personality and the fact that I make myself available, I’ve often been a public face of my community. I enjoy meeting people, learning about them and telling about us. I ask a lot of questions and try to get a little beyond the superficial if there’s time and it seems appropriate. What happens sometimes, though, is that I forget what people have told me about themselves so that when they visit again, a few months or even just a few weeks later, I can’t remember anything about them and have to start all over again which has to seem very UNwelcoming, insincere and thoughtless. This is most likely to occur when we’ve had a number of new people visit over a short period of time so that I’ve asked the same kinds of questions of too many people too often without letting the responses sink in. Also,I think it is much more likely to happen when I am insufficiently grounded; when I’m all puffed up with how great it is to greet new people because I’m so friendly and get energized by it. I am not centered and am unlikely to be truly welcoming when my ego is bigger than my awareness of how I am reflecting God.
It is good for me to know this and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn it. I can now be more mindful and deliberate in my approach to newcomers. I have also learned that I need to prepare to greet people before I get to the meetinghouse by becoming attentive to what God might be guiding me to do or say.
I, um, do want to say a word about the Bible study. I can’t really say how long it has been since I’ve done Bible study in a group. In various situations, I remember exploring a few passages in support of something else we were learning about but even that has been a long and rare time. What I remember is how head-y it was with people wanting to share KNOWLEDGE and to dissect it and talk about the linguistic and cultural understanding of what it means. I really appreciated Deborah keeping us focused on our hearts so that we talked about how the words rested in us. The difference seems significant, to me. Knowing versus owning. The potential for transformation seems less likely if only the head is engaged.