Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Scruffy hospitality

I have long thought hospitality was the key to the development of authentic community, if not church life in general. I probably wrote about it years ago when it was something I was trying to foster in myself or my church community. A couple weeks ago our pastor mentioned the idea of "scruffy hospitality" in a sermon, and it caught my ear. I don't think I'd ever heard that term, but I like it.

I simple google search unearthed what I think is the source as Jack King, an Anglican priest in Knoxville, Tennessee. There is a great little blog post about it - 'Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship' - and I suggest everyone read it, especially if you're interested in such things (and there's a great wine cork idea).

He starts out with this familiar scene to those of us who've tried to be hospitable folk:
After seven years of marriage, my wife and I have welcomed numerous friends into our home. Once we decide to host friends for an evening, we usually kick into get ready mode, a fast and furious sprint in the days and hours before our friends arrive. We divide and conquer the to-do list: select a menu, complete grocery shopping, mow the lawn, sweep the floors, run the vacuum, clean the playroom, wipe the bird crap off our lawn chairs (we have lots of trees), set the table, clean the playroom (again), and somehow, someway, pray all that happens before the doorbell rings.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you're like us and you usually just end up forgetting the whole thing because it's too much work.

That's where "scruffy hospitality" comes in. He defines it as such:
"Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together."

As much as I like this idea, I do have to admit that it's a real struggle for me. Not only am I an introvert, but I'm also a bit of a perfectionist neat-freak. So the thought of people coming over and seeing our collection of empty wine bottles stacked on the counter, or my dirty socks strewn about the living room... is not something I'm entirely comfortable with. And that's the problem. I need to be. I need to be more of a people-person than I am. For as authentic as I like to think of myself, I can tend to only be that way under certain conditions. Which is really being truly authentic.

So, I hope to try to make some strides here. I'm not much of an entertainer - especially since the way we failed so miserably with hospitality at the church we used to lead - but I suppose you have to start somewhere. Scruffy just might be a good way to do it.

Here's the challenge: Invite some people over, then...
  • Don't take more than 10 minutes preparing for your guests.
  • Don't purchase anything special to eat.
  • Wear whatever you have on (though I highly recommend having something on).