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Dispatches from the Field: Stewardship and Hospitality

Ross Wisnewski

Note on the author: Stewardship Teaching Team member Ross Wisnewski worships at St. Mary's in Sparta where she also serves on the vestry and as treasurer. In addition, because Ross and her husband George spend part of the year in New Orleans, she regularly worships in that city at Trinity Church. Last month, Ross attended one of Trinity Church’s Adult Forums, where a manager from Windsor Court, a four-star luxury hotel, had been invited to share his experience in the "stewardship of hospitality."

Ross notes that from the start of the manager’s comments, he stressed that he was not speaking of just himself – but that he was speaking of everyone who worked at the hotel. Throughout the talk she was struck by how the hotel’s approach to hospitality could be applied to our churches. The manager shared:

“We are all so very proud of our hotel and of its history, but we are always aware that people come to stay with us because they, like we, deeply love our city. We know that it is our honor to be their home-away-from-home while they journey through our beloved city.

So, we begin by welcoming them at our door and by inviting them to come inside and make themselves at ease. We view it is the job of each one of us, not just the doorman, always to be welcoming and always attentive to our guests.

Each of us is taught to carefully watch our guests and be attuned to their needs. They might be arriving late and tired, or perhaps with young children stressed by travel, maybe their luggage was lost along the way. They may be here for the first time or for the very last time, in town for a celebration, but perhaps the occasion is a sorrowful one. They may be a part of a larger group or all alone. They may have come to New Orleans to listen to music, or to dine in our fabulous restaurants, or to experience a museum or participate in a convention.

‘Welcome, we say, how are you, what brings you to our beautiful city? How can we assist you during your stay?’

We are careful not to overwhelm our guests upon their arrival by speaking at length on the many possible glowing details of our hotel, instead we watch and listen. If it is late and the guest has been traveling, we might say, can I introduce you to the concierge and he can make dinner reservations for you if you wish, or perhaps you might prefer room service.

We always accompany our guests to the next person to be of assistance to them – the doorman will usher the guest to the front desk for check-in or to the concierge for reservations, for example. Bell staff, wait staff, housekeeping, even maintenance, all have their roles in providing hospitality to our guests…the guest is never left to figure it out on their own.

We are interdependent upon each other, with a single goal: to make our guests feel at home throughout their stay.

Upon their departure, we thank them for coming, wish them safe travels, and express the hope that we will see each other again in our beloved city. We follow up by writing them a letter of appreciation for their visit, and, in the following year, we write to acknowledge the passage of time and express our well wishes. We want them to know that their visit was important to us and their presence here was appreciated.”

Ross writes:

So it might be with our churches.

A newcomer arrives at our church door. We may have no idea what brings this guest to our church home – perhaps there is a wedding, or a baptism, perhaps a funeral; maybe it is an ordinary Sunday during an ordinary week.

Might they need large print bulletins, are there mobility issues, might they know another congregant with whom they wish to sit?

It has been their choice to visit our church for this point in time on their faith journey.

How do we welcome them, how do we invite them in, how do we envelope them in the midst of our congregation? How open are we to their presence? How do we let them know that their visit is important to us and that their presence is appreciated?