Haley and I are in Jacksonville this week at the Episcopal Parish Network Conference. Day 1 was filled with planning, brainstorming and setting up our table. Days 2 and 3 are flying by, and so far we’re meeting old friends and making new ones, so many of you have stopped by to say hello.
Last night my husband and I walked to a neighborhood grocery store, and on our way there we stumbled upon the Jacksonville Cathedral of St. John. There were a couple of cats in the garden, prowling the paths between the magnolia bushes, as warm liquid amber light poured through the windows. We tried the door and, to our surprise, it was open.
A wonderful lady met us, and led us up small staircases and down short hallways to the sacristy, and then through the nave. Take your time, she said, I’ll leave you to it. We took in the stained glass, the slightly elevated pulpit, the containers of sand and candles for lighting and the small rounded doorways. We wandered through conference rooms and parlors and into the Bishop’s Garden where cool water flowed and several dishes sat filled with cat food, hospitality for feline friends.
I’m thinking about that lady this week as we welcome people to the GOL booth. I’m thinking about how she welcomed us into the beating heart of her church without a backward glance or credentials check. We’ve had seekers come to our table wondering if there is a place for them. We’ve had friends old and new stop by and along the way we’ve connected and connected the beautiful dots of God’s creation.
I can’t help but wonder if this is when God smiles the hardest. When we gather as church but not at church. When we shake hands, and extend hospitality and welcome in the name of Christ.
Check out a couple of photos below from the conference, and also make sure you see the opportunity for some new programming. Ministry Moments, those instances where you pour knowledge and experience and hope into each other, are coming to your home office. We have two Moments scheduled this spring and would love to have you come.
As we race once more toward Easter I hope that you find time to rest, even for a moment, in the hospitality that God offers in myriad ways.
Alicia Hager Communication & Community Curator, The Gathering of Leaders
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