First United Methodist Church’s Kris Errecart reaching outRadical hospitality

The mission is to step outside your comfort zone

Kris Errecart chairs Sacramento’s First United Methodist Church’s Missions committee.

Kris Errecart chairs Sacramento’s First United Methodist Church’s Missions committee.

Photo by anne stokes

As they’ve been doing for almost six years, on the last two Sundays each month, Midtown’s First United Methodist Church throws open its heavy, wooden doors and welcomes anyone and everyone to a free, hot breakfast. The hall fills with people down on their luck—a group that has slowly swelled as the economy slumps along. SN&R sat down with Kris Errecart, chairwoman of United Methodist’s Missions committee, to learn more about the breakfast and the church’s other service projects.

How did the breakfast program start?

Shortly after I came to this church, I started working with the youth. We went to Sierra Service Project, which is an organization that provides mission work for youth on Native American reservations. We did that for a number of years and then we thought, “What kind of service project could we do here in Sacramento?”

We looked for things that youth could be involved in, and we had some opportunities for the kids to serve in Sunday-school settings, and so we started the breakfast for them.

When we first started, we did it one Sunday a month, and all the serving and the cooking and everything was done by the teenagers of the church. Since then, it has grown into two breakfasts a month.

What other service projects is the church involved in?

We also host Family Promise, an organization that houses homeless families. It’s the only place in Sacramento where mothers and fathers and their kids can stay together. And they rotate through the churches. So they might be here for one week, and then next week they’ll be at another church. There are 16 churches on that rotation schedule right now. So we host them four times a year now.

We have some families that were part of Family Promise that are now serving breakfast here today.

Do you have future plans for the breakfast or for other projects?

First, for this breakfast, we want to improve what we’re already doing. I just went to a conference two weeks ago, and we’re talking about risk-taking and radical hospitality. Today, for instance, with about six or eight folks, who are now learning how to sit down at the table to actually have conversations with our homeless guests. We’re real good about bringing them in and having food for them. But making the connection and having conversations with them? There are a lot of folks in our church that aren’t ready for that. So we’re expanding in that manner.

We’re [also] encouraging folks to risk being a little uncomfortable so they can actually talk with folks that they’d turn their face to if they were walking down the street.

I just actually became chair of the Missions committee this year, and so we’re looking for additional projects in Sacramento that we can do throughout the year. We want to do some projects that the [people we serve can] participate in. We find that when we serve them, they in turn want to serve others.

Earlier, you mentioned the concept of “radical hospitality.” What’s that?

It’s based on a book by Bishop [Robert] Schnase called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. Hospitality, mission, worship, all of those things are regular part of our churches. But then you add these adjectives that take it to the next level. And we’re now talking with our own congregations about what does “radical hospitality” look like, as opposed to just hospitality.

For some of us, mission work is standing behind these tables right here and serving. To some people, that’s no big deal. Sitting down at the table and actually having a conversation with people that you would not otherwise be in conversation with? That’s more of a risk. So we take it.