I mentioned yesterday that I had the gift of a sabbatical earlier this year. As part of it Joy, my wife, and I took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee.
One reason was to meet a man I had only ever known on social media. Dean (pictured) had for 17 years been a champion of the hymns I write. As the head of worship for the United Methodist Church in the US he had put them on their website and helped get two of them into a church hymnbook.
Three years ago, I had been due to speak at a hymnwriters’ conference in the US but was unwell and had to cancel so this trip was our first opportunity to finally meet.
He was a generous tour guide, taking us around Nashville in his car and introducing us to his city, even though he was struggling with a heavy cold. Then, on the last day he insisted on taking us to our airport hotel and inviting us to share a family meal to celebrate his father’s 98th birthday.
Although we had never met, there was something precious about being part of the worldwide family of 80 million Methodists while we were in Nashville.
In the Bible, when Jesus sent his disciples out on a mission tour, telling them that wherever they went they should learn to be good guests: to accept the hospitality people offered, eat whatever food was set before them and learn to be comfortable in unusual places.
Dean’s welcome certainly made Nashville a good place to be and made me reflect on how I could be a better host to those I encounter.