The Common Room is naturally a place for hospitality. It has sometimes been where prominent religious visitors and lecturers are made welcome – Rowan Williams or Raymond Brown. But it is just as likely to be used by a local community of L’Arche residents, as by religious academics. And more typically, this is where new students and people of entirely different backgrounds might face each other a little awkwardly, needing help with introductions.
One of my favourite memories in this room is of observing a cultured university lecturer being obligingly courteous to a rather hesitant Mike (Mychal) Judge, two generous and kind individuals, with very little common ground. Mike was a friar from Brooklyn, who dressed like a teenager and had worked with AIDS patients and other marginal groups in Manhattan. He spent a year with us in Canterbury sharing his relaxed pastoral manner and insights. He became, soon after returning, the chaplain to the 31st St. New York Fire Department. In that role, he was the first to be brought out dead from the Twin Towers disaster.
Hospitality is a feature of proper community. It provides a very enriching and fascinating experience. Alertness to the buried layers of character in visiting personalities is an adventure into the spiritual mystery of God’s creation. There is delight and wonder to be had in the multiple gifts people have developed, and in watching how and when they decide to put them into effect. courage in one, wisdom in another, affection in others.