With it being my holiday, I haven’t been thinking religious thoughts that have been worth writing down (much less typing on a blog). It seems like I would be doing work on my holiday if my thoughts went too deep down that road. But, religious thoughts seem to follow me, anyway!
First, a shameless plug: I want to put a plug in for the Hafod Y Mor Bed and Breakfast. If anyone is planning a trip to Llandudno, I suggest giving Helen and Eddie a ring or an email. Don’t be fooled by their two star rating. This is a fantastic place to stay and I haven’t met any friendlier owners. As we were thinking about it, I think this is the only place where I have stayed twice. I stayed there a year ago when I attended the Heart of Worship conference last May (with my friends Kara and Sarah Hamilton). I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to stay there again. It is slightly up the hill overlooking the promenade, just on the outside of the town centre. Close enough to all the restaurants and of course to the beach. Our room had a beautiful view of it all.
Anyway, while not trying to think too many religious thoughts, one experience at this hotel stands out in my mind. Last year, the Heart of Worship conference coincided with the Llandudno’s Victorian Extravaganza (for Americans, this amounted to what we might call a street fair, with very un-Victorian era carnival rides). I haven’t a clue what the draw is for this fair, but there were people from all over the country pouring into this little coastal village. The Hafod Y Mor B&B was at capacity level, and many of these folk come down every year and have got to know each other. It was fun to watch and listen to them reunite and look forward to other arrivals – all because of this yearly fair. After coming back to the hotel from the conference at night, I would sit in the lounge with them. The amazing thing is, they just took me in! It didn’t take long before I was involved in conversation about American Country music. I didn’t feel left out, I didn’t feel awkward. They were just ready to talk to me at the end of each day. Nor did it matter that I wasn’t there for the ‘Extravaganza’ – they didn’t shun for being a minister there for a Methodist Conference.
My friend Pam has blogged that it usually takes about two years for a church to thaw towards a newcomer and embrace them. Her thoughts crossed my mind a few times as I thought back to my trip last year. I realise that this may be like comparing apples and oranges, but there does seem to be at least a small reason for looking at the two situations and comparing them. The community at the Hafod Y Mor appeared to be ready to meet new people, even while wanting to reconnect with their old friends. There was an openness and friendliness that was natural, especially compared to many churches who focus on ‘Has someone said hello to them when they entered the church?’ (and hence stopped there as if that is all it means to be welcoming). Sitting in the lounge, it did not feel like tea and biscuits after the service, sitting in the corner by yourself.
I don’t want to sound like I am disparaging the church. The churches I have been a part of have been great at taking care of those in their own community and those they have known for years (I think this is in part why we get to the situation Pam describes). I want to point out that there is something we could perhaps learn from other communities where people gather. Or is this? Can we learn this? Or is this a radical change of who we are? So much of what is on business meeting agendas is geared toward keeping the churches going as they are. Can a church that looks to taking care of itself suddenly become a community looking to expand and include new people?
This will be on my mind a lot in the next few weeks as I start my reflections on the second and third part of my sermon series (being the family of God and evangelism). I need to do more than ask questions.