“I was a stranger”

I should probably cut myself a break. After all, it has only been six weeks since I moved to Baltimore (aka Charm City and legitimately so). Within days of arrival, I had boxes unpacked, books on the shelves and pictures on the walls of my new apartment (read: hermitage).

By week five, I’d already cooked, baked and visited with three out-of-town guests; explored the neighborhood and some of the city beyond; found a great hair stylist for significantly less money than I’d been shelling out; went to the nearest ER for stitches. Also on the list: visiting local churches.

As a result of visiting various chateaux du worship, I’ve started a new hobby—searching for guest books and signing them. Please note that I’m not talking about the ubiquitous book of prayer intentions, although I usually sign those because: 1) they’re easy to find; 2) my handwriting is fabulous; and 3) I add global prayers to the usual roster of specific ones for upcoming surgeries like, for example, reconciliation among all Christians.

Easy to locate guest books in cathedrals and other sanctuaries that double as tourist attractions. Local churches? Not so easy. I’m talking about a real guest book for visitors, one prominently displayed with a working pen.

I suppose I’m noticing guest books because I am, for now, the stranger and contemplating when and how that will change. This, in turn, has led me to contemplate when and how I might welcome strangers—or even familiar friends. Thanks be to God.

*”…and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35

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Meredith Gould
Meredith Gould, PhD, is the author of seven books, including The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day, Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship, and The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today. She serves on the team at The Virtual Abbey and founded the Twitter chat for church social media (#chsocm).

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