19 November 2020
Houses and Hotels
In my various roles within the Methodist Church, I have spent a good part of the past six years (until March this year!) travelling, and I often spent nights away in hotel rooms. Sometimes I have stayed in basic Christian conference accommodation and occasionally I have stayed in some quite nice hotels. It struck me that however nice the hotel room may be, it is still a place that I am only in for a very short time and it is nothing like being at home in my own bed!
This got me thinking about the difference between hotels and homes. In a hotel room you wouldn’t start hanging pictures on the walls or putting up photos of loved ones. You wouldn’t pick out a new rug to lay on the floor or get new bedding. The staff would think you were crazy if you started offering to help with the laundry or washing dishes! Sometimes when I am only in a room for one night I hardly even unpack my bag! In a hotel, you know that your visit is temporary and that it’s not worth putting down any roots or trying to engage with your environment.
There are two things that struck me about this. Firstly, with regard to churches. Some people treat the church a bit like a hotel – popping in and out now and then, enjoying the benefits of the worship and the pastoral care of the church family, but never really engaging with the fellowship, contributing or getting involved. Indeed, one of the sadnesses of the current Covid situation is that there are many people who have become disconnected from their church communities and have no intention of returning when the pandemic is past.
For others the church is like a home. They become part of the family, join in with anything that needs doing, contribute their time, talents and resources, give as well as take, settle down and become ‘at home’. I don’t believe that Jesus intended us to treat his church like a hotel but his intention was for us to throw our lot in with his people and truly make ourselves at home – even when things are not always to our personal preferences or when there are people who get on our nerves, we are called to be a part of his body to encourage, support and bless others, as well as receive care and support ourselves. So if you’re currently just popping in and out, why not make yourselves at home with your local church community, even if it is currently an online experience, and become a partner with them in all they seek to do in showing the love of Jesus within the church, community, nation and wider world?
The other thing that struck me about hotels and homes is that just like a stay in a hotel room is temporary, so is our stay here on earth. In a hotel you don’t get too settled as you know you’re moving on soon.
As I write this article, my husband, a Methodist Presbyter, is in the throes of the stationing process and we are in that strange no man’s land where we are not sure where we will be living next year and trusting God that through the prayerful discernment of the stationing matching group, we will be sent to the place that God wants us to serve. It is a bit of an unsettling and yet exciting few weeks, but a helpful reminder that we are pilgrim people, always moving on. My prayers are with all of you involved in this process over the coming months – I know that for some families it can be a difficult time of upheaval and change and also a time of grieving for many churches preparing to lose beloved leaders.
Sometimes as Christians we live in this world as though this is our permanent home and allow ourselves to get stressed and anxious about matters that in the eternal scheme of things won’t really matter that much. Many people spend their lives pursuing money, careers, status, possessions and glory forgetting that Jesus tells us to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ Jesus teaches us not to get too attached to the here and now because ‘no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’. This is the hotel visit and one day, we’ll be going home – the best really is yet to come!
Carolyn Lawrence, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, 2020-21