The women of the diocese hosted a special luncheon for Mariann Price at St.Thomas, Oakmont, on Saturday, September 15, 2012. Besides the delicious catered lunch, and welcomed opportunity for lively conversation, the program presented by Mrs. Price is one we wanted to be sure to share with everyone.
Dana Rattenbury of St. Thomas, was the event coordinator. She had asked Mariann to speak to us about how we can best welcome our Bishop-Elect’s wife, Betsy McConnell. This was brilliant, because who could have a better perspective, than a bishop’s wife. And who else but Mariann, could find a way to graciously tell us where we fell short! She did not disappoint us.
Some Bishop’s wives chose to settle down in one parish to call home, she told us. Others travel with their husbands to the various churches for the Bishop’s visitations. Mariann chose to do the latter. There are advantages and disadvantage to the visiting approach. The advantage is the opportunity to meet many more people, see each parish and get a clearer picture of the overall diocese. The disadvantage is the Bishop’s wife will feel like a visitor or newcomer everywhere she goes.
What is the best way to treat a Bishop’s wife? Mariann, modestly confirmed the obvious: “Treat us like you would any visitor.” The implications are for each parish to take a hard look at how we treat “anyone” as a visiting guest. Where we can be more conscientious in our hospitality? Hospitality is one of the indisputable ways we can be Christ to others. Christ himself also soberly reminds us that how we treat others is how we treat Him. Mrs. Price’s suggestions are so blatantly simple, you wonder how they are ever missed.
Here is a Hospitality Check List:
- Where to park. If you know the Bishop is coming, or any visitor, be ready to help them park. If you don’t, is there a sign visible from the street that directs visitors? Is someone there to greet them? As I recall, when Bishop Price and Mariann visited Emmanuel, it was icy. Yet we were not prepared to help them with parking or to negotiate the ice while carrying the Bishop’s garments.
- Which door to use to enter? It may be obvious to you, but if it is not the front door, be sure to have good signage. On the front door –“Use the Side Entrance,” and on the preferred door – “Enter Here to Worship.” Be sure the doors are unlocked prior to the service. No one wants to be locked out or walk in the wrong door in the middle of something.
- List service times and specific locations of Sunday School, Bible Study, etc, and especially Restrooms – for each building. Generally, check your overall signage. Is it clear? Up-to-date?
- Is your Ladies Room shabby or welcoming? This is a sure place every guest and every Bishop’s wife will visit, she reminds us. St. Paul’s, Mt. Lebanon was acclaimed for its lovely Ladies Room with stenciling, chairs, tissues, and scriptures!
- If you provide Name Tags, be sure to make one for the Bishop and his wife.
- “Speak to your guests at coffee hour,” Marianne chides. “An hour is a long time to read a bulletin board, especially one that is not up-to-date. If you see someone reading the bulletin board, this is a sure sign they have been left alone too long with no one to talk to.”
- Consider asking a lay person to be a personal host / hostess or chaperone for the day. This person should not have other responsibilities to attend to that day, but be free to stay with the Bishop’s spouse for the day. “Men make very good hosts,” Mariann advises. The host will want to: Help them park, help them carry garments for the service, show them where to enter, explain the service and event times, point out the restrooms, get them a name tag, sit with the spouse during the service, introduce them to people, talk with them and invite others into the conversation at coffee hour, and help them out to the car with their things.
Mariann spoke with Mrs. McConnell, who plans to visit all the churches. She would like someone to sit with and tell her about the parish. What a lovely desire expressed by Betsy! What an opportunity for hospitality!
“Sometimes people are intimidated by the Bishop’s wife,” Mrs. Price confides, and we keep our distance. Mariann’s genuineness, warmth and accessibility has allowed that to change. We are sad to see her go. Grateful for her gracious honesty, our diocesan nest will be more ready to welcome the new Bishop’s wife like “any guest,” and yet, “as Christ.”
Emmanuel, North Side
–Photos courtesy the Rev. Chips Koehler