Ministry Focus

Hospitality at Phinney

~ Christina Sunstone

Phinney Ridge Lutheran is known for its beautiful and spirit-filled worship. But this church is also known for hosting lovely and memorable social events: parties, receptions, and meetings. With our large fellowship hall, commercial-grade kitchen, disabled access, and off-street parking, it’s not surprising that hospitality is one of our most depended-upon ministries, both in our congregation and in the wider community.

Volunteer hospitality teams make this ministry possible. PRLC members Jo-Ann Cress and Dianne Carlson lead two of these teams. I spoke with each of them recently to learn more.

How did you get started in Phinney’s hospitality ministry?

In Jo-Ann’s case, it was because she was asked. Phinney’s former pastor Paul Hoffman invited her to take part in a hospitality event back in 2005, and she’s been active in hospitality (and more than a few other things!) ever since.

For Dianne, it was seeing an announcement in a Sunday bulletin. One of the church’s existing hospitality teams was seeking additional volunteers, and Dianne thought it sounded like a fun way to serve, one that played to her own interests and strengths. Dianne laughs that “That was back when you didn’t ask what flavor of punch to make – you asked what color!” Eventually Marilee Pearson – the team leader at that time – returned to full-time work and stepped down from hospitality team leadership, and Dianne took the reins.

What kind of work is involved in hospitality?

Serving on a hospitality team offers a lot of fun possibilities. The event could be a post-memorial reception, a congregational meeting, a special celebration – almost anything except a wedding (for which we have a different hospitality system in place).  Dianne’s favorite aspect of hospitality is the creativity – she loves to make things look nice. (She says that at least a few of her decorative inspirations start with the need to cover up a stain.) Hospitality team members might be invited to bring in flowers from their yards, or cookies they’ve baked at home, or contribute in any other way that makes them happy.

On the day of the event, the team gets to work putting cloths on the tables, setting up the coffee/tea/punch offerings, and making it all look nice. (Both Dianne and Jo-Ann stress that you should never be afraid to open up a cupboard and see what’s inside – it’s your church, after all, and you’ll be surprised at all the useful, pretty stuff you find.) Once the event is over, the team clears the tables, washes and puts away the dishes, and leaves the kitchen tidy.

It’s hard to say how frequently a team will be asked to serve, as most events can’t be predicted too far in advance. But hospitality is a job that welcomes as much or as little as you can offer – maybe you can help out this time, but not the next. All contributions are helpful and appreciated.

What are the rewards of hospitality?

For Dianne, providing hospitality is a way of honoring people, and she has fun working with and serving the people involved. She says she hopes that when she dies, a hospitality team will feel inspired to put out the silver tea service – or do any special thing – as she does now to honor others.

And for Jo-Ann, hospitality feels like a calling. It’s a ministry both to families who are grieving and to individuals who are celebrating, and she knows that the people she serves are grateful for the loving service.

We are currently seeking to build our hospitality ministry. Watch your Sunday bulletins and fill out your count-me-in if this is something you feel called to help with!