Over the past two weeks I've written about our mission of “creating sacred spaces of Christian hospitality and learning.” I've shared what it means to do this in community, and how it is that we go about creating sacred spaces.
This week the focus is on hospitality and next week I will write specifically about Christian hospitality. Hospitality, according to the dictionary, has to do with the “reception of guests, provision of lodging.” The Latin root is from “hostis” – guest, which also means stranger, foreigner, and even enemy!
I am away from home this week attending the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Leaders event at Epworth by the Sea, on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. I have had plenty of opportunity to receive hospitality: from a Lyft driver in Portland at 3 in the morning when I began my travels; from airport and airline staff; from hotel staff; from a friend and colleague who arranged my transportation from South Carolina to Georgia; and from the staff at Epworth by the Sea. One of the things that I enjoy about travel is that it always presents me with opportunities to learn from others about hospitality. The insight might be how to do things differently (sometimes, though not always, that means better than at home) or it might show me what to avoid doing.
I arrived at the hotel in South Carolina about 5 pm, checked in, and was handed a key. As I approached my room a housekeeping cart was in the middle of the hallway. I squeezed by it and opened the door to my room. I could tell immediately that the room had yet to be cleaned. I was surprised by this discovery and returned to the desk. The clerk was also surprised.
Finding an unclean room would be outside of our expectations when we have been given the key to a space that is supposedly ready to receive a guest. It seems that they were short on housekeeping staff on this Sunday afternoon and so they were behind in their work. In my experience there are two parts to this experience of hospitality. The first is delivering on what you promised (a clean room) and secondly, what do you do when you missed on meeting what you promised?
Obviously, in this case part one (the promise) was not met. For me, the second part is much more crucial to how deeply ingrained is the hospitality. While a second room was provided very quickly, and a clean room was all I thought I wanted, I realized eventually that an apology (which was not offered) was also key to making me believe that caring for my needs was important—more than just a job, which is essential to hospitality.
I know that our staff at all our sites work hard to get it right the first time. I also know that sometimes we miss the mark and need to step into that place of discomfort to meet the expectations of our guests. That is the work of hospitality.
I’m curious what stories of hospitality you have to share. Drop me a note, I’d love to hear them.
See you on the adventure ahead,
Rev. Todd Bartlett
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries
*PHOTO: The 15 (!!) Oregon-Idaho camp & retreat leaders at the national gathering in Georgia this week: L to R Grace Kemling (Magruder), Hope Montgomery (Magruder), Lee Armstrong (Magruder), Karen Nelson (BCRM), Louise Kienzle (BCRM), Lisa Jean Hoefner (former Executive Director), Todd Bartlett (executive director), Troy Taylor (Magruder), Kimberly Venable (Magruder), Leslie Carter (Magruder), Geoff Fielder (Magruder), Kevin Elden (Magruder), Emily Kallas (Magruder). Not Pictured: Holly Dolan (registrar and donor relations specialist), Danny Lange (Latgawa).
It’s minus two degrees celsius. Frost-tipped grass lines the hiking trails snaking through the forest in Ursvik, a Stockholm suburb on the edge of the Swedish capital’s technology and science hub, Kista.
Yet, despite the frigid temperature, there’s a steady footfall of walkers and joggers out and about during their lunch break.
Their passion for nature cuts to the heart of what Scandinavians call friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv). The expression literally translates as “open-air living” and was popularised in the 1850s by the Norwegian playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen, who used the term to describe the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical wellbeing.
Unwinding in the open air is so ingrained in the culture, some companies build it into the working week. But is it under threat in an increasingly global and digital society? Read more in this article on the BBC website.
*PHOTO: Friluftsliv can help you get centered, as this trail sign pointing toward the Alton L. Collins Retreat Center demonstrates (Todd Bartlett).
Todd's description of leaving home at 3 in the morning to fly to the east coast for the national camp and retreat gathering may not make you wish you could have traveled with him for the event! But the thought of gathering with camp and retreat lovers for campfires, singing, engaging in lively conversations, long walks in nature, and plenty of Christian hospitality--well, that part probably sounds pretty good. You actually have the opportunity to participate in the national gathering and to secure a visit to a camp or retreat center for yourself: just click here for the Silent Auction that will allow you to bid on a stay at UM center somewhere across the country. The bidding opened this morning, and will continue through 5:15pm Eastern time on Thursday. All proceeds go to support camp and retreat ministry in the denomination, and you'll get a great stay with great hospitality in the future, plus it allows you to get in on the fun at the national gathering, so it's a win-win-win!
(By the way, if you prefer to direct your dollars to camp and retreat ministries locally, there's always that green button just below....)