Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Photo by Michael Nejman)

Colossians 1:24-29:

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

One of the things I constantly struggle with in my online EfM class is trying to understand Scripture with something beyond my limited 21st century mind, and try to see the minds and hearts of the people who wrote it thousands of years ago.

This year, year two in my EfM journey, is the New Testament. One of the things I often think about as I study my lessons this year is how the culture at the time shaped the Jesus story--especially at the time the early church started to move from being "disaffected Jews" to reaching out to Gentiles. Paul's letters speak almost constantly of the tension in this regard. Their had to be a place where these early disciples, rooted in their Jewish tradition, had to feel comfortable enough to give the Jesus story away beyond the context of "how it fit in Judaism." They had to, in what we now know from Benedictine hospitality, embrace the concept of "welcoming the other."

This article also piqued my imagination in this regard. Our parish, in this interim period, took on the task of "exploring our abilities in hospitality." We had some town hall meetings where some "touchy truths" came out. One touchy truth was that we thought of ourselves as very hospitable to "the other" but it was easy to say that when 85% of our parish is either faculty, staff, or student at Truman State University. It brought up a hard question--what does our statement mean, in light of our demographic? Does it mean we can be hospitable to the community with the right doorways in place? Does it mean we have never been tested on the edges of this community? Or did it mean we really weren't as hospitable as we thought we were?

Our town meetings in the beginning phase of our search process spoke to this. Some who were part of the "other 15%" spoke up as to feeling excluded. Some of the 85% admitted they really liked being surrounded by their friends on Sunday or among a more educated community, because they really didn't know how or were uncomfortable talking to people who were "much" different. Some expressed a desire for the community to be more heterogeneous.

More illustrations came out in the Town Hall meetings. One is that although we identify ourselves as a very "musical" church (our little choir is known throughout the Diocese) some people thought there was "too much music." We also have a sizable minority of "quiet, contemplative worship loving" types. Some thought that although we love our music, if we are true to our desire to get some younger newcomers, our love of four-part harmony and the hymnal won't cut it. I always thought music was truly the one sacred cow this parish had, and I watched people gently prod the sacred cow. That truly surprised me in these meetings.

I know I worked very hard to hear what people were saying in the meetings, and I came to realize that taking on being earnest about wanting hospitality might well be the best endeavor we could have picked, but it will also be the raggedest growing edge.

What it made me realize is in order to "welcome the other," we first have to admit there is an "other" and let the "other" speak to us.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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