I cannot help but reflect on the past weekend as I sit down to write this letter. I know one of the unique realities to ministry is that I as a pastor see a very different side of the church than the average member; it is something that goes with the multifunctional nature of being a pastor. Saying that, it is important to share a couple things about this past weekend that I thought to be unique.
In the spring, a group of members asked if we could move the coffee hour out to the front of the church. There were various reasons, some thought it to be a nice change, others thought it would give better visibility, and the logic goes on. What struck me this past Sunday, as has happened through the summer, is the way that we welcome everyone to the table. This Sunday there were two men in particular that I am thinking about.
One had just moved to the area and was hungry; the other seemed to just need something rolling up on his bicycle. While many would not shun them away, not only did we give them food, but I watched as members actively approached them as we do everyone that comes to visit. On my drive home, I reflected on that and thought to myself about the witness that we are having every Sunday in front of our church in showing welcome.
This witness followed two experiences that I had over the weekend. On Saturday we hosted the funeral and reception for Felicia. For those who came, you knew this was not the typical funeral. While there were moments that were sad and difficult, the custom was for it to be a celebration. In the service we combined the traditional Cameroonian traditions with the American Presbyterian ones to make a very meaningful service and one that honored Felicia’s life. The thing that stuck out the most is probably the thing that many would not even notice, the gratitude of the gathered community for our hospitality and care. This made a big difference in the way they were able to connect and move on in this most difficult of situations.
It was similar in a way to the wedding service I performed Friday night for a Christian man and Hindu woman. Nobody else from the church was there; both were not members of the congregation. Yet, it was interesting, though, how and why they picked me. Though I had not known the families before, I had a lot of similarities to the groom’s background, and our church had the multi-cultural background that told them it would be ok to ask me.
It was funny, having done multi-faith weddings before, this couple wanted a unabashedly Christian (Presbyterian) service. I think I was more worried at times of being too Christian than the couple. Though afterwards I was amazed at how many people came up to say what a beautiful service it was and to thank me. But when the father of the groom began to speak about how his son was baptized and confirmed in the Presbyterian Church and how important that foundation was, I was again humbled.
In all three events, the Christian understanding of hospitality was evident. Some might ask what is the most important ministry we have, and over and over I see how we are a model for Christ’s love through the way we welcome others and respect others and their traditions. Through this we are able to witness to our neighbors Christ’s love.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen