House Blend Ministries celebrated its 10th birthday in February with cake, coffee, and community storytelling. This milestone means a lot of different things to me, but one thing it signifies is that, for 10 years, I’ve been a part of a community that has been learning about hospitality, by practising hospitality.
House Blend began with a simple question, “How can we rearrange our lives in ways that allow us to follow God and create a caring, Christ-like community?” For the past 10 years, through a process of trial and error and error, we continue to ask that question and every now and then we catch glimpses of the answer.
Hospitality is a practice through which I am learning to invite people into my life, as it is, not as I wish it was, and there has been no better place to learn this practice than House Blend. As I invite people into the mess of my life and they invite me into theirs, I am learning that I can be loved and accepted just as I am without fear, judgment, or the need to pretend.
I have learned that hospitality and entertaining are not the same thing. When I hear the word “entertaining,” a Martha Stewart like perfection comes to mind. If practising hospitality actually required me to be a Martha Stewart-quality hostess, I’d never measure up, and therefore I’d never practice it.
At House Blend, we share at least one meal together every week and we stress that whatever anyone brings is a gift. That means that my contribution is equally welcome when its a store-bought pie I picked up on the way over, a casserole worthy of a magazine cover, or something less palatable with burnt edges. Whatever I bring is accepted with gratitude and I have come to realize that the main thing holding me back from sharing with others is my own inner critic.
Which doesn’t mean it is always easy. The House Blend community is diverse and comes with a wide range of unique challenges. As I practice hospitality and become more comfortable with this discipline, I know that I always have more to learn.
Several years ago, for example, we discovered we had bed bugs in our community house and I discovered where my growth edge was. I am willing to practice hospitality with people, but not with bed bugs. Did that mean that I would wall myself off from human relationships with people who lived with bed bugs in order to protect myself? Was I capable of becoming comfortable living with bed bugs in order to maintain those precious human relationships?
I’d like to say I am, but I’m not. Bed bugs are disgusting. But my friends are lovely and I found I was able to accept a certain degree of risk in order to continue those relationships. I armed myself with information on basic prevention techniques and continued to develop relationships with people on the margins. I hope I never discover bed bugs in my own home, but if I do, I know how to get rid of them, and I have good friends who will lend a hand.
Our 10-year anniversary has been a time to celebrate all the good things God has done in and through our work. We own a home that has allowed us to provide safe, affordable housing for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and we’ve also been able to use that space to invite people to join us for a weekly potluck supper, for games nights and other social activities, and for a cup of coffee and a conversation on the front porch.
This anniversary has also been a time to dream about the next 10 years. As part of that process we’ve had to make a very difficult decision. For years we’ve known our community house was simply too large and too expensive for our little community to manage and so we have decided to sell this property in May.
We are amazed and deeply grateful that all the people who live in our community home have already found alternative housing. We are thankful that All Saints’ Anglican Church has extended hospitality to us and will become the new home for our weekly potluck and prayer gatherings starting in early May. And, we are hopeful as we imagine what God has in store for us next.
Beyond helping people find housing and preparing a house for sale, we’re not sure where this experiment with hospitality will take us – into a new partnership with an existing landlord or housing project? The purchase of a new smaller more affordable house? We’re not sure, but we sure are excited to find out!