John Morrison – 22 October 2017

One of the activities Kristine and I were looking forward to during our recent UK trip was the Mary Jones walk.

In 1800, 15-year-old Mary Jones walked 42kms barefoot across the Welsh mountains to buy a Welsh Bible after saving for 6 years. She purchased it from Rev Thomas Charles, an influential preacher and pastor, who shared her story and the need for affordable Bibles for ordinary people in their own language.

This was part of the inspiration for the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society (now just called the Bible Society) in 1804 by Rev Charles and others, including William Wilberforce.

The walk is from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Mary’s remote home village, to Bala where there is now an excellent museum (“Mary Jones World”!) in a former church.

We attempted to do it over 2 days, but failed, due to a combination of relentless mud, rough terrain and getting lost. We have a newfound appreciation of Mary’s dedication and tenacity.

After hiking with full packs from 9am to 6pm on the second day, we were still considerably short of our destination. So we made our way to a nearby town where we asked an elderly local resident about the next bus to Bala. We had a 2 hour wait — except that the man cheerfully offered to drive us. “We’re all Christians”, he said. On the way he shared that he had been ordained in a lay Catholic order.

At the end, he refused payment. Instead, he suggested that we repay him by helping someone else with a similar kind deed sometime. We were touched by what we would call his hospitality. We said yes, of course. Beyond our agreement to indirectly repay him is our obligation as Christians to continually respond to God’s hospitality to us with hospitality to others.

We often think of hospitality as involving the sharing of premises and food but it is much more than that. Dictionary.com defines it as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” It involves generosity of time and spirit whatever the location or occasion.

We have countless opportunities, big and small, to be hospitable. Today’s longest morning tea table is one such opportunity. As invited guests join us, our welcome, attention, sharing and conversation is what hospitality is all about. And we will also be the recipients of hospitality as they engage and share with us.

One of the draft church goals resulting from the review process so far is “inclusive community.” In elaborating on that, people have used such expressions as demonstrating Jesus’ hospitality, reaching out, embracing newcomers, open and accepts diversity of views.

On behalf of us all, welcome.

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