by Amanda Hines on August 18, 2021

In a couple of weeks, Rob Jackson and I will be attending the Transitional Ministry Conference online. It is designed to help ministers lead congregations during this ever-changing time in church life and, especially during times of challenge, change, and revisioning.  As part of the preparation for this conference, I am reading Priya Parker’s book The Art of Gathering.  Parker is an expert on hosting events.  In her book, she presents her insight into being a host who creates meaningful and memorable gatherings. 

I just finished reading the chapter about explicitly stating rules for gathering to help guests enter “an alternate world.”  As more and more people move from one community to another, cultural expectations shift, increasing the likelihood of social snafus. She suggests that all guests may not know the unspoken rules of a gathering.  Explicitly stating the rules can be a generous act of hospitality that helps equalize the guests.  Rules can also help establish expectations that are different from society at large, such as turn off your cell phones and no talking in the movie theater.

Every week, we gather for worship. We hope that, with God’s help, we facilitate a gathering that inspires and transforms us, a place where heaven and earth meet for a little while.  As a congregation, we are both responsible for the space and we are God’s guests.  What are our “rules” for gathering?  Certainly, we have explicit rules like our Covid protocols.  What are our unspoken rules?  Should they be more explicit so that we can better explain them to a child learning or a visitor who has never been to church?  There are LOTS of rules in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.  What do those rules have to do with us in our modern sanctuary, in our modern gatherings?  What does Jesus have to say about rules?

And that’s where I stop.  The question has changed from basic rules a simple gathering of people into a question about gathering faithfully as followers of Jesus.  All the rules of church and all the rules that govern our lives fall under two very important rules:  Love God and love neighbors.  That’s it.  All the other rules, explicit and implied, should proceed from these two.

Do they need to be written down?  Maybe. Sometimes.  Yes, if writing them down helps us do a better job of loving God and loving others.  If writing them serves to be inclusive, to care for one another, and helps us build up one another, then we write them down, we make policies, and we communicate them well.  If writing them serves to exclude or hurt people, then we leave them out.  Exclusive rules shouldn’t be part of our gathering.

Priya Parker suggests that rules should help include people.  She says they serve to unite rather than divide.  Jesus says that the greatest rules are rules of love:  Love God.  Love neighbors. What are the rules of your house, your gatherings with friends, your community groups?  Do they express love?  It’s something to think about.

It is a joy to be one of your pastors.


Tags: golden rule, hospitality, pastor's word


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