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“Hospitality Begins Inside” marks the second chapter in one of my favorite books, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love. Father Daniel Homan, O.S.B., and Lonni Collins Pratt offer that “a spiritual practice is an action intended to make a change or adjustment in the deepest realm of the self. A spiritual practice is a thing we do that opens a door. It might be a meditation or prayer. It could be serving the poor. Stripping life of what is unessential and practicing simplicity – that is a spiritual practice. The spiritual practice creates a possibility or opportunity, but the change itself is more gift than effort. The spiritual practice puts us into a receiving place where we are open to the something more that we call God. You can set your will to be more open to others, but your heart still has to stretch gradually.”

As July 25 marked my one-anniversary as your rector, among many blessings received, I am impressed by the welcoming environment for which Grace-St. Luke’s has been long described. In direct and indirect ways, weekly visitors, newcomers, and members alike are invited to and welcomed into all that parish life offers through worship, formation, fellowship, service opportunities, and special events. Our hearts still have to stretch gradually.

As GSL continues to be a welcoming place, our goal is to create a place of belonging, whereby all who come and go from our sacred space in the heart of Midtown Memphis might bear an internal feeling that keeps them connected to and always coming back. The spiritual practice of hospitality is bound to support us on our journeys into Christ, the one we follow faithfully and who shows us how to be and become known in this life.

At GSL, we continue to welcome a host of visitors into our common vibrant life. While many have become affiliated through worship on Sunday morning or evening or Wednesday at Noon, others have come through the Sunday Parish Hall Forum and evening formation offerings, 12-step meetings, music, More-Than-A-Meal volunteerism, and Grace-St. Luke’s School. In addition to the summertime Newcomers’ Gatherings hosted by the Congregational Development Team, you will hear about and see more intentional initiatives to practice hospitality, including invitations to serve as a Welcome Host (Greeter) before and after worship and for other events. Meanwhile, I ask that we pray daily to practice hospitality with Jesus on our mind. Our mindfulness definitely will be felt by and might affect the other, whomever she or he may be, and we too will be changed. And in so doing, let us consider more reflection from Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love:

“Hospitality, rather than being something you achieve, is something you enter. It is an adventure that takes you where you never dreamed of going. It is not something you do, as much as it is someone you become. You try and you fail. You try again. You make room for one person at a time, you give one chance at a time, and each of these choices of the heart stretches your ability to receive others. This is how we grow more hospitable – by welcoming one person when the opportunity is given to you. Long ago, Christians were wrestling with the same kinds of things you and I leave unsaid day after day. There are no easy answers. Saint Benedict offers none except that we must be open to others, especially, he says, the poor and the outcast. Benedict was a Christian and so Jesus was his model for how to treat the poor. Jesus told his followers: If you ignore them, you ignore me. If you feed them, you feed me. So, Benedict tells his monks, receive every person as if you are receiving Christ himself…In our relationships with others what matters is that we keep trying. There is a place inside that you must first open, before you open your door. Some days it will be hard to do that, other days it will be easier. What is matters is that you keep trying.”

Godspeed and blessings as we try the spiritual practice of hospitality,

– The Reverend Ollie V. Rencher, Rector