Quaker Hospitality

Blog post by Kathy Slattery

Our very first year, was a process of continuous learning. This year offers much the same, but at a slower pace. Last year I served as House Manager and Registrar. During the 2022 season, I will serve again as the Registrar while looking forward to being at the house frequently to offer spiritual hospitality.
The part of my roles that I love best is truly meeting each guest in a space of spiritual hospitality. The first conversation with potential guests comes in all kinds of ways, from text messages to persons who came by Quaker House last season, and want to come back for more. And once they arrive, what a revelation! I remember deep conversations around the kitchen table; a crowd of people surrounding the front garden, intently listening; the waiting stillness of worship; and laughter and watercolors pouring off the second floor porch like ministry.

I also remember some poignant moments, like sitting around the kitchen table, listening to men in leadership in Homeboys Industries, telling stories of their life experiences. And one guest, early in the season, texting me, asking if I could find a stopper for the old clawfoot tub in the bathroom. She explained, “it’s not for me–it’s for the friend I came with. She’s a frontline healthcare worker, and she’s just exhausted from the pandemic. A soaking bath would really help her to relax.”

And there was the time when I was home alone, in the kitchen in the back of the house, and I thought I saw someone on the porch. When I went to look, I met a woman with such sadness. I invited her in. She told me that her husband had just died. He was a Quaker; and they both had loved coming to Chautauqua. So she wanted to just sit in Quaker House and savor all the good memories. With her permission, I sat with her; and the worship went deep. Grief is not heard until someone is listening.
This year we continue to explore different ways of being present and connecting with guests, Chautauquans and visitors. The richness, the juiciness, of meeting face-to-face is a blessing. In person, it is possible, as one guest put it, ‘to meet in the eyes’.
Each week is like a feast set out. All are welcome! Come as you are! Take what you need, be it a much-needed restorative sabbatical, a week of spiritual community, or satisfying your need to know more or be inspired; welcome into a spaciousness that nourishes exploration, delight, creativity and untracking from well-worn patterns.
As Rumi wrote
This being human is a guest house.                           

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,                           

some momentary awareness comes                           

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!                           

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,                           

who violently sweep your house                            

empty of its furniture,                                      

still, treat each guest honorably.                           

He may be cleaning you out                           

for  some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,                             

meet them at the door laughing,                             

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,                             

because each has been sent                             

as a guide from beyond.

Taken from Selected Poems by Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks (Penguin Classics, 2004).             

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