This afternoon, the parish of St Thomas (on 5th Avenue) held evensong. It was a special service, where they had intentionally invite the Delegations of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church to attend.
St Thomas' has a long history of traditional church music, and it was a stunning service of worship, prayer, and praise. The choir offered several parts of the service (including psalms and anthem) with great passion and obvious love of worship. The readers ere practiced, the preacher very good as she shared her thoughts on women of faith.
The rector, the Rev Canon Carl Turner, had graciously welcomed us as we were arriving; and then identified us to the congregation with great enthusiasm. Afterwards, we were delighted to partake in a brief reception, which then led to a sumptuous meal.
The hospitality was profound. We were all most appreciative!
What impressed us further was that everyone wanted to hear our stories: where were we from, what engaged our energies, what were our experiences of UNCSW, how were we intending to share the event after we had gone home.
We were truly listened to as much as we were welcomed.
The bishop of New York, the Rt Rev Andy Dietsche, shared a story of hospitality (which I hope I do justice to!): he had once been invited to a gathering, where he shared an experience of the day. The person of the story was moved to tears. Afraid that he had offended her, the bishop asked how he might offer comfort, to which the response was that her response was not embarrassment or grief, but that she was crying with gratitude because she had been heard.
Being heard is an important reality. It gives us dignity, it acknowledges our personhood, it assures our value. Being heard is a part of what discussions on the rights of women, intersectioned with the reality of rural life, is what this CSW is focusing upon.
And so we are listening; we are learning; we are hearing and being heard. We are intentionally seeking the voices that have not been heard, or that have been silenced, or that have been ignored, or that have been minimalised. We are seeking them out so that we can honour them, and their storytellers, and the communities from which they source. We are hearing so that we can begin and continue action towards reconciliation and justice.
As another long week begins, we are aware that we are guests here; that hospitality is being extended by the UN and by New York and the many structrues that are working to figure out our locations. We are also guests in people's stories; in the narratives that are being shared (as difficult as they are at times) in order to strive for the common good.
We are guests. And we are blessed with hospitality. The very least we can do is to listen.