Well, we've had a magnificent week en Provence. This was part of Maggie's 50th birthday celebrations _ I'm good at buying the presents I can enjoy as well! Plan A was a trip to Venice & Rome as I knew she wanted to go back there, but then dear old Easyjet cancelled the flights. Nice was the alternative I managed to negotiate (has anyone else had to try and get something done with them? - a nightmare). Anyway, we ended up having such a good week it felt like plan A after-all. We hired a small economy car and ended up being given a C3 cabriolet, which was great fun with such good weather. We'd only been during the summer before and it was so much better being there without quite so many people around.
One of the things you can never avoid thinking about in France is food - not that I'd try! It strikes me that, here in the UK, we start any conversations about the links between hospitality and a missional lifestyle from somewhere back behind the starting line. The French take their time and often a long time, which aids conversation - we tend to rush as if it's a race. They also invest energy in making you feel welcome. The reality is, it's part of the fabric of their culture and seems to come as easily as breathing. It has an impact - we love France and the French as a result. For us Brits, hospitality seems a struggle. You find exceptions, but that's what they seem to be even in many Churches. I'm fortunate in being married to someone who has the gift and is also an excellent cook - so many people I've met feel they can't entertain others in their own home because they 'can't cook'. This then tends towards people categorising hospitality as a gift some have and others don't, but avoids Paul's injunction to 'practise hospitality'.The upside, if there is one, is there is such a low expectation around hospitality, you can make a big impact with something quite simple. One thing I don't know about is the extent to which the French invite one another into their homes, or whether they simply share the occasion and experience of eating out together. I've not spoken to many people since we arrived home as I'm still on holiday, but I've already had two conversations about busyness. It seems this is the biggest enemy of hospitality - even bigger than 'I can't cook'. I read the majority of "Untamed' by Alan & Debra Hirsch, whilst away and they compare a cozy local restaurant with a not-so-czo McDonalds by saying one communicates 'eat and stay' whereas the other. 'eat and get out' - now apply that to many of our Church buildings.