Discovering Northern hospitality

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Much fuss has been made over what we in the southeast part of the nation call “Southern hospitality.” Southerners especially are proud of their Southern hospitality. In fact, we tend to spin it as if we have all the hospitality and other regions of the country have come up woefully short.

We — we believe — are the genteel, aristocratic, manners-minding folk who extend graciousness, friendliness, and sweet ice tea to all comers, regardless of who they are and from whence they came.

At the same time, we eschew the concept of Northern hospitality, denying that such a thing is remotely possible. Who, after all, ever heard of “Yankee hospitality?”

Yankees, by their very nature, and especially New Yorkers, are arrogant, fast-talking, opinionated, condescending, brash, and rude. That’s the myth anyway. Having spent, over the last few years, a number of weeks in Yankee country, and especially New York, I wish to challenge that Southern assumption.

I recently had to spend the better part of a week in New York. From the time I arrived at JFK International airport, I found friendly and helpful people. On one occasion I was trying to get my bearings when a nice lady traveler said, “You look lost. May I help you?” And she did. The hotel staff welcomed me back, remembering me from a trip over a year ago, and asked about my flight and about how we fared during Hurricane Irma.

Later that day, Bishop Gregory Ortiz, bishop of the Northeast Diocese, called Bishop David Simpson of Florida and myself, and invited us to his room for wine and cheese before dinner. Actually there was much more than just simple wine and cheese. It was an appetizer feast. Then he took us to a great Italian place where we had a lovely evening.

After our meeting on Tuesday, we all (the North American bishops) were invited to the home of Archbishop and Cathy Bates where there were so many appetizers served I could barely eat my dinner. There was lots of laughter, discussion, and genuine fellowship. There were two more meals before the week was over and the same gracious hospitality was extended each time.

Bishop Simpson and I didn’t have a car rented but Bishop Ortiz, Deacon John Garrett and Father Alan Melanson went out of their way to make sure that we got where we needed to be when we needed to be there. Our meetings were held at the Church of the Intercessor on Long Island in Malvern and the clergy and staff of the church made sure that we lacked for nothing.

It was a very enjoyable and relaxing week, even though it was a busy time. As I boarded the place and found my seat, I reflected about my own church. We have a breakfast ministry, a hospitality ministry, a meal to the sick ministry, all of which touch many lives. And most of those volunteers are New Yorkers!

In fact, some of us Southerners could learn a thing or two about hospitality from our Yankee cousins. I realize that some of my Southern brethren will accuse me of sacrilege. But, because of the people I have known, I can honestly say something that, a few years ago, I would never have thought of uttering:

I love New York!

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, (www.ctkcec.org) and the bishop of Georgia and Tennessee. The church is located at 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, and meets on Sundays at 10 a.m. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]