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By Wendi Bernau

Hospitality and Welcome at Haw Creek Commons
Wendi Bernau, MWF staff
“Behold, I am sending an angel before you to protect you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20).

Hospitality is not just a kind smile or nice refreshments, though those are certainly important. It’s not glamorous most of the time—like putting enough paper towels in the restroom. More often hospitality is noticed by its lack than its presence. How do we create a space in which people feel they belong to something bigger than themselves and are an integral part of what happens there—that each item is provided for you, individually, as well as for the community?

How do we say without words, "It wouldn’t be the same without you"?

National Gathering is shaped by these large and small caring gestures, every detail from comfortable chairs to nondairy creamer to a conveniently located trash bin. A hospitality professional I respect once told me "You can't just offer what you would want or do what you would do at your home, you have to anticipate what other people would want and supply that." It’s something both tangible and intangible, creating an environment in which people come away from an event like National Gathering and say, “I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I know I want to be back in that community again.” 

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Community Voices:

Laurie Sandblom, National Gathering participant

“And welcomed we were! This hidden gem, snuggled into a neighborhood, held in love, seemed to truly be created for a time such as this. When I lived in Asheville, I frequented the bank and library at the foot of this very hill and didn’t know how close I was to this project of transformation. Bethesda UMC and Haw Creek Commons opened wide their doors and hearts for us and we were blessed. I loved the newness of the space and the history of the archives, the radiance of the stained glass windows and the shaded playground of joy.  All was ready and we feasted on meals, treats, fresh fruit, words of hope, and the good work ahead.”  

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Glenna Gillilan, Member of Bonhoeffer and Cochran communities, Dallas, TX

Something I took away from the weekend happened on Saturday at lunchtime. A small group of us were sitting at our table, and one of the ladies was working with the loom there. She had been helping straighten up before lunch and saw one of the other attendees sit and begin weaving. She told us that she had been working witIh that loom during the entire conference, and when she saw someone else working on it, her initial thought was, "Hey, that's my project!" Then she thought, "No it's not—the looms were put there for everyone to use; they're everyone's project."

I considered the big loom at the back of the main gathering area that we had all been working on over the course of the weekend and thought that it really does take a community to make a tapestry. That then reminded me of Hillary Clinton's famous quote, "It takes a village to raise a child," and thought, "It takes a village, a community, to do most things." Hopefully I can keep that in mind as I continue through life.

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