‘The feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty’. – Mother Theresa
Everything is a sign, literally. No-thing points to nothing. And over the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing some very literal – and very disturbing – signs around some churches that I’ve visited; signs which indicate, at the very least, some serious confusion about the nature and raison d’être of the community that gathers together in the name of Hospitable Love. Film isn’t able to capture the mustiness and temperature (or lack thereof) of some of the depressing solitary confinement cells (sometimes these are called ‘play area’, or ‘cry room, or ‘creche’) that I’ve seen recently, but here are just a few shots (including one that I pulled from somewhere else on the web) of some other signs that I’ve happened across:
For those who may be interested, I’ve uploaded a copy of Peter Corney’s wee and somewhat dated booklet, The Welcoming Church. It has some good practical ideas in it. But seriously, folks; hospitality is not rocket science. If someone takes the trouble to visit your home, the least you can do is to let them in, say hello, brew them a coffee, feed them, let them change their kid’s nappy (and use your rubbish bin), find something to talk about, make sure they know where the loo is, remember their name, enjoy them, participate in the movement of ek-stasis which characterises the good cheer of the universe itself, and bless them with a bag of vegetables, a curry, or a bottle of homemade lemonade to take away when they leave. It takes a little bit of thought and effort but, like I said, it’s not rocket science.
So why is it that there are some faith communities, including those made up of some of the nicest individuals you will ever meet, that are just so unwelcoming, or whose public environment, at least, is such? To be sure, there’s a job here for some theology of architecture and of interior design. And at the risk of doing a René Girard, I guess that there’s something too to be said about the DNA of those attracted to serve as community gate keepers. But wherever there is a shortage of the former, that ball needs to be picked up. And where the latter prevails, where such inhospitable demons exist, such need to be exorcised, along with their footprints, if the Body of Christ is to look, feel and smell less decapitated than it often appears. Surely love demands – and seeks – no less.
Sometimes it’s the little things, eh …
By the way, I’m happy to receive by email any photos that I can add to this collection.