Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Ever heard about role-playing games? According to Wikipedia, these are (board, card, video) games “in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting.” In high school, certain RPGS were popular among my friends. ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, which basically created the genre in the 70s, continues to be faithfully played. I’m not an expert, but from what I know, I respect the concept.

Of course, some think these games are simply for fantasy and science fiction fans. But the same basic idea is behind Murder Mystery Dinner Parties. Someone hosts a dinner. Everyone ‘pretends’ the setting is some different time or place, and dresses accordingly. All the guests are assigned ‘roles’ (i.e. “You’re a 1950s flight attendant from Georgia who’s suspicious of men with mustaches”), and they work together during and after dinner to solve a ‘crime’ that’s been committed. If I’m right, years back Plymouth Creek organized such parties in members’ homes and folk had a blast! In fact, a couple ‘kits’ are in my office closet…in case you’re itching to host…

The point is role-playing games can be fun, and even at times instructive. Indeed, I think folk can learn things about themselves- what they love, how they react to others, what they’d like to get better at- by ‘inhabiting’ the role, or life, of another, fictional person. If they’re paying attention! It reminds me of acting classes. Crying on stage, I learned, often demands that actors discover and then recall sad memories or feelings in their own lives. That self-discovery process can be tough, but can also have positive effects that outlive the part one’s playing.

A couple weeks back, you’ll recall, a group of PCCCers led a ‘workshop’ on hospitality. We’d recently overhauled the Sunday morning greeting process to better reflect our values and vision and wanted folk to see what we’ve come up with. Well, one of the tools used at the workshop was…role playing. Don’t scoff. Providing good hospitality is hard! Sure, some folk are wonderfully gifted hosts. They’re naturals at striking up good conversation and setting people at ease. These are Hospitality All-Stars, admired by all. But I’m not that way! Many Christians aren’t. Nevertheless, we’re all called to help provide ‘unconditional hospitality’ to all who’d come share Christ’s Table with us.

In other words, hospitality is a skill. That Christians can, and must, build. So to practice, we role-played; acted out common scenarios we encounter with church visitors. In one ‘scene,’ I was “John Doe,” who wanted to be as anonymous as possible. Another was a Hopeful Skeptic, still another, a Church Shopper. After all, many different folk walk into our church and we, as faithful Christians, must be prepared to provide welcome. “But Shane,” you’d say, “It’s the Greeters’ job- not mine- to welcome visitors.” I’d respond, “Not true!” Yes, our Hospitality Hosts are step #1, but everyone contributes to a culture of unconditional hospitality. You needn’t become best friends with every visitor. But welcoming others is part of our Sunday morning duties; a requirement of membership in the Body of Christ.

The question becomes, then, “What kind of hospitality are your good at?” Or even, “How can you get better?” We’ll probably host more workshops and role playing events. If you want help better imagining what visitors desire from church, or to better understand your own blessings and limitations, join in. Or do a little role playing with the Greeter at the front desk next week. Until a visitor comes in, then put that practice into action! Or simply take a moment this week to imagine yourself welcoming others to church. What do they look like? What do they want? How can you help them? After all, we’ve all visited a church before, and most likely, how warmly we were welcomed contributed hugely to whether we had a good experience or not. Indeed, if I looked deep in your heart, I bet I’d see that’s what’s at the core of your faith. God somehow convinced you that you were welcome in God’s presence, and it made all the difference.

So how are you going to do that for someone else this week?

Grace and Peace,

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