Welcome all as Christ
The Rule of Saint Benedict may seem antiquated to us today. Written in the early 6th century as a rule of life for those living together in community as Christians and monks, the Rule of Saint Benedict provided much needed direction and a path to living in community without killing each other (Anyone who has had several roommates understands what I’m saying here).
As a priest in a local church, The Rule of Saint Benedict (RB) also provides me with insight, and it challenges me on how we can be the church in the world today. In a culture that is so very self absorbed, the RB can help us recover some of what is best on being the community of God and to give hope to a despairing world. The RB also may enrich our culture today by reminding the community of God how the early church and early monasticism viewed each other, and how each was to view the stranger, the new person among you. According to the RB, each person has great value.
Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests
1All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35). 2 Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims. 3Once a guest has been announced, the superior and the brothers are to meet him with all the courtesy of love (RB p.89 Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. del Mastro, Doubleday 1975).
In light of this, the question is- Do I do this when people visit our places of worship? Do I do this as I go about the city? The question is not very subjective; it is not “How was I received?” but rather “How did I receive others?” How do we relate to “others”? There are different social groups. Think about high school. Today, as in times past, there are cool kids, not cool kids, nerds, jocks, and more. As adults we sometimes only see suits, blue collar, the hipster, the homeless, the undesignated… As a pastor I’ve seen people come in to a service and I can tell they’ve been drinking, or using. Some have emotional issues, or perhaps mental health struggles, and others have spiritual struggles they are dealing with, or unresolved sin issues… but they are there, which is good. I’m there too, a sinner, a pastor, a contradiction. We are at church, we are the church; they and I are there in spite of our sin, our struggles, depression, or perceived worth. Saint Benedict challenges us to show honor to each other, with all courtesy, dignity, and love, with these words: “Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims.” May it be found so among us.
At the monastery, at the church, in our homes, and as we go about the city, let’s remember The Rule of Saint Benedict challenging us: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).” This is a rule of life. These are words we try to live by at The Camp House Coffee Shop, and at The Mission, Chattanooga. May it be found so among us.
Father Dale Hall began ministry in 1987 at Calvary Baptist Church, in Rome, Georgia, while in college. He’s been a social worker and crisis counselor, as well as a Vineyard pastor. Now he’s an Anglican priest serving at The Mission, in Chattanooga, where he leads several ministries, and lives with his wife Kimberly. They have two sons and a daughter in law.