We did it. The 41st convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego came to Saint John’s and it was a big hit! Because of who we are as a parish, I knew we were going to hit a home run. I also knew that we would be welcoming, hospitable, and enthusiastic about our ministry. What I didn’t know was that the home run we were going to hit was going to clear the fences, go over the street, and take out a window a block away. But that’s exactly what happened. Every person that I talked to on Friday and Saturday thanked us for hosting. They said our volunteers were helpful, kind, enthusiastic and really liked being here. Visitors told me they were over whelmed with an abundance of hospitality, coffee, water, directions, and most importantly, smiles. From the time our visitors began to drive into the parking lot to be greeted by the Men of Saint John’s, to when they walked onto campus at any of the three open gates, to when they needed a bathroom, or something to drink – they were overwhelmed by smiling and eager people.
This past weekend, diocesan leaders took me off to the side and told me that, “Saint John’s has set a new standard in welcoming and hospitality. You have set the bar for every forthcoming diocesan event.” I heard this more times than I can count. And now, nearly a week later, I am hearing phrases like, “The best, ever.”
As we prepared for convention, I didn’t tell you that at the last two diocesan conventions lots of things went wrong; we ran out of coffee, poor signage made confused delegates late to workshops and meetings, the lunch was sub-par, there was no area to chat, and people left after their meetings instead of staying to fellowship with one another. I doubted we would have such difficulties at St. John’s because we are a place where people jump in when they see problems and fix them.
But here’s the deal; we didn’t have to be that good. I can ask for volunteers and put people into situations where they are comfortable, but I can’t make them smile or go the extra mile like you all did. You’ve heard the phrase, “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Along the same lines, I can ask Bill Cheney to serve coffee, but I can’t make him smile. The smiles he gave us over the weekend were entirely his. Likewise, Wilma and Josie, along with the rest of our concierge team, were scheduled to be at the welcoming table. They can be scheduled but no one can force them to be enthusiastic about Saint John’s and the convention. That part they did all on their own. During the Eucharist service, ten minutes into communion, we had chalice bearers returning to the altar with empty chalices. Marge and Gretchen jumped into action. I asked each one to specifically be there – Marge on the altar and Gretchen running the sacristy – but I can’t make them smile and help each chalice bearer. They did that all on their own.
This is why I wanted the convention at Saint John’s. I wanted to share you with the diocese. The delegates and visitors desperately needed to see a group of parishioners who, when the going gets busy and potentially stressful, respond with smiles and enthusiasm. And, you did just what I knew you would do, simply be yourselves. Thank you for being you and serving God with smiles and enthusiasm.