We walked through the bustling market, taking note of Bermuda made goods of all kinds. When we stopped to look at some different jellies, a woman encouraged us to step outside. "You can taste it for free today," she said with delight.
We walked outside where we were greeted by many Bermudians eager for us to sample their goods. One person offered us Rum Cake with a huge smile. Another offered us a taste of Bermuda's main drink, the Dark and Stormy before giving us a shot of the oldest rum made by this particular company. We never made it to the jelly table as we were soon summoned inside a pub where the Dark and Stormy drinks were on special and a delightful person, Wayne, was entertaining with his keyboard. We got a table, ordered a drink and started to communicate with Wayne.
Everyone was in a good mood. Everyone was being offered an opportunity to taste something new. Everyone was being welcomed to come inside. Everyone was offered a true taste of Bermuda. It was happy hour, a time that started at 2:00 in the afternoon and ended at 4:00.
And, it did not take long to understand the timing of Happy Hour. The Dockyard is the place where large cruise ships are anchored. The ship right outside the location of the craft market was scheduled to leave at 4:30. Happy Hour was planned at a time when the visitors to the island would be most likely to enjoy one more final taste of Bermuda, buy one more bottle of Rum, take home one more Rum cake for an office mate, or buy one more Christmas ornament made from Bermuda glass. The samples were not for the locals - they were for visitors. The pub specials were not created around the schedules of the locals - they were designed specifically for the people who would be visiting. The atmosphere was carefully choreographed with the visitor in mind.
When Happy Hour ended, Wayne, the musician, came over to talk with us. He shared a part of his story and then asked why we were on the island. I shared how I was here to preach for two Sundays, and he immediately said, "I'm an Atheist." When we continued to talk, he shared how he had been all over the world and observed each religion of the world. He told us how he had read the Koran and read the Bible, how he had worshipped with Buddhists and with Catholics. "When I examine the way people live, however, I realize that the people who are Buddhists live a lot more like Jesus than the people who claim to be Christians," he shared. He continued to talk about the hypocrisy of the church and how he does not see many Christians being kind and loving, generous and hospitable, caring and gentle. When our conversation had ended, we all concluded that Wayne really has not given up on God - but on the church. As a result of the church, he wants nothing to do with God.
What if our churches spent time doing whatever we could to prepare for Wayne's arrival? What if each action and time of worship was prepared not for the people who always come but for the person who has never come? What if we created an atmosphere for the visitor like the one we encountered in the pub yesterday - where the very best was offered without price, where the locals were all eager to welcome and greet the newcomer, where excitement and anticipation filled the air, where everything was perfectly planned and executed for the visitor?
We gather around a table in our sanctuaries where all are welcome and no one is turned away. Wine is shared - wine that represents the very best poured out so that all might have eternal life. We break bread that is the bread of life. We pass peace as we celebrate our reconciliation made possible through Christ. We hear the story of how we are to care for the people around us - especially the individuals who are too often forgotten. We are welcomed - no matter who we are, where we have been, or what we have done.
I wish Wayne lived in Washington. I'm pretty sure I could get him to visit Mount Vernon Place sometime. And yet, I am quite sure that there are people like Wayne all around us - all around each of our churches. What will we do to prepare for his arrival?