He bounded into Sanctuary that morning, library book in hand and great big, bold, beautiful personality at heart. His little sister hung close to mom for a while but tentatively introduced me to a very special pink-and-gold-haired doll who was equipped with a ‘shared’ Taggie security blanket. I met, as well the oversized Clifford treasure that she had brought home from that morning’s library excursion. Mom was there for a meeting with me about our Music-for-the-Soul-Ministry, the kids along for the ride—but the ministry was in the moment and we shared an hour that put me in touch with the face of Jesus.
While Mom went next door to grab some lunch for everyone, I was regaled with wiser-than-his-seven-years explanations of the “disgusting things you’d rather not know” from his precious find entitled, “You Wouldn’t Want to Be an Egyptian Mummy”. We talked about many things—his ‘girlfriend’ and their upcoming tickets to a Red Sox Game, favorite teachers and his excitement about second grade. He wanted to know if the storefront was my house (“No, it is our church, it’s a new kinda church.”) and whether I bossed the sexton Steve around (“Well, sort of.”) There was a fly in the room that garnered a lot of attention from all of us, especially his little sister—and when I stood to swat it, he stopped me and not-so-gently suggested that since I was old, his reflexes might be better equipped to tackle the problem (I think he was right as I never did get rid of that darned fly).
There were multiple additional interruptions to the ‘meeting’—more cute questions, furniture rearrangement for the evening’s Faith and Film set up; Mac and Cheese covered mouth and hands being wiped repeatedly, the persistent passing of the potato chips, another drop-in guest who wanted to talk about the film—and his latent longing for the “kind of faith that some people have”. In the midst of the chaos, Mom and I threw snippets of our questions and a few rapid fire decisions at each other while the kids continued to delight me with their with banter and silliness.
And then, there was a momentary lull. He was up on his knees on the chair next to me with one of those famous, homemade Simple-Fare chips in hand. Mid-bite, he turned straight-faced toward me and said, “Do you mind if I fart in your church?”
Needless to say his mother’s head was in her hands by the time I sought to reassure her with a smile. Sis was giggling in that heart-lifting, joy infused way that only a three-year-old can muster. And he? He was nonplussed. “Well, C-“, I calmly replied, “you can fart in my church, but we do have a rest room right over there if you think you might be more comfortable.” Without batting an eye he replied, “That’s okay, I did it already.”
We had a little teaching moment about how farts can affect others and promptly returned to the next ministry decision we had to make. But my joy was complete. My heart was full from the knowledge that these children had experienced a sweet comfort in the space we call sanctuary and that they felt at home and safe and equipped to offer all of themselves—giggles, questions, wonder and farts. Of course their parents have much more to do with their comfort and courage than Sanctuary, but our commitment to hospitality, andour call to be sanctuary in the way we are being sanctuary created a vessel for this hour to happen with joy, presence and grace!
We have been thinking a lot about hospitality these days because Open Sanctuary has been a place where we are living into our vision. There are regular visitors now–the man who has no home and is telling others on the street that Sanctuary is a place they can come to get a glass of cool water and get out of the heat; the PTSD sufferer who comes in to talk and feel safe; the woman in recovery who is losing a family member and schedules time for prayer; passersby who ask for prayers like the woman who wants to quit smoking and the fellow who needs a job. And there was the kid who needed to fart in church. By the grace of God, Sanctuary met these folk where they were, delighted in who they were, made a space for connection and care, and looked for the face of Christ in the meeting. In doing so we entertained angels—and we were the ones who were blessed!
We pray that God will continue to allow us to be a blessing and be ready with hospitality so that the angels might continue to light on our doorstep and find their way into our hearts.