I am often the recipient of such hospitality. I have food issues – I don’t eat meat by personal choice, and I don’t eat wheat products because they trigger migraine headaches. (And I serve a town that boasts an annual Beef and Barley festival – yes, irony!) I let the folks know this at the time of my interview, and they said there was no problem with that…
And there isn’t.
At pot lucks, there is always something made specifically for me to eat. Supper invitations come with questions to make sure I can indulge. When we have lunch after church, there is a small plate with rice cakes beside the tray of buns. Early in my ministry here I was seen eating peanut butter-marshmallow dainty at a funeral reception; these treats have become staples for almost any function. A separate dish of rice pasta is prepared for spaghetti suppers. Folks try out new gluten-free recipes with me in mind (I have yet to dislike any of them!). They ask how to make GF pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. They share information on where they’ve seen GF products for sale.
Sure, I’m the rector, and single at that. And in some parishes clergy get spoiled with attention and treats. But I am NOT the only one to receive this attention – this has just been one new direction for the folks here to focus their ministry.
I’ve seen people make special desserts for nut allergies. Someone’s “favourite dish” is prepared to bring out a smile. Particular spices are avoided or added depending on the recipient. Recipes are traded, home-canned mason jars get passed back and forth, the proverbial cup of sugar is handed over without a second thought.
We do these things because we know that a little extra attention goes a long way. We do it because we know it’s appreciated. We do it because we have made the effort to remember these small quirks that we all have. “It’s nothing” and “I hoped you’d like it” are the responses when someone comments on the special attention. But we all know better.
It may not be difficult to make something special, but it shows that the intended recipient is special. It shows that extra effort ahead of time is worth it when it means full inclusion. It shows that there is a true desire to know one another, and treat them as family.
It may be a small thing physically, but the meaning behind it is significant. The meaning behind it is one of Christian love and family, of affection and community, of connection and hospitality.
How does your worshiping community extend hospitality to strangers? To members?