The apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 4:9, had this to say about gracious living: "Use hospitality one to another without grudging." And Paul, in writing to the Romans, said, "He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity." Rom. 12:8. These references are but two of many that might • be used to introduce the important subject of gracious living; and I cannot resist the opportunity to share some of my convictions about this very vital subject, especially with the coming shepherdess, who will be the most important person in the life of her minister husband.
A practical knowledge of many things assists greatly in the smooth operation of the pastor's home and, as a result, the pastor's work. How to be a gracious hostess is most necessary knowledge, for when we entertain we must remember that we are representing not only our own personal standards but those of the entire denomination. A minister's wife should be a good housekeeper, a good hostess, and a model mother and wife. We should always be willing to share what we have, even if it is but little. Share yourself as well as be yourself; then people will be attracted to you.
Smart homemakers say that planning, preparing, and serving meals are an art that develops through inspiration and thought. Meal planning is really fun. It may look difficult to the beginner, but, like driving a car, learning to swim, or developing any other skill, it grows easier with the doing.
Cut your meal pattern to fit the situation and the occasion. Situations may vary as follows: If your house is small, with limited dining space, simplicity and informality are necessary. In fact, it may be necessary to serve buffet style. A situation that will also affect the pattern is location. A home in the city will call for a type of entertainment which differs from that of a rural farming community. Furthermore, there will be some difference if the majority of your guests are older folks or young people.
The table settings as well as the furnishings of the minister's home are, of necessity, not elaborate. Consequently, wealthy guests will adapt themselves to your best; but you will find that they are gracious about it, and they would be disappointed if you apologized for your rather meager furnishings. On the other hand, the furnishings of farmers are nearly always functional, so that some of the trimmings found in the home of a minister may seem elaborate to them. Just for example, a few years ago a sterling silver service was given to us as a gift. We would not think of using it when entertaining country folk, because they would not understand. Such guests can best be put at ease by inviting the wife to help set the table.
Ellen G. White, writing in the book Ministry of Healing, states:
"We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead of this, the food should be more simple, and less should be eaten, in order that the mind may be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. A clogged stomach means a clogged brain. The most precious words may be heard and not appreciated, because the mind is confused by an improper diet. ...
"Cooking on the Sabbath should be avoided; but it is not therefore necessary to eat cold food. . . . Let the meals, however simple, be palatable and at tractive. Especially in families where there are children, it is well, on the Sabbath, to provide something that will be regarded as a treat, something the family do not have every day."—Page 307.
The beauty of companionship at occasions where food is served can easily be ruined by misconduct on the part of the minister's children. The conduct of other children on such occasions does not become the subject of conversation— and, at times, gossip—as does the conduct of a preacher's children. If an atmosphere of culture pervades the home consistently, and respect and obedience are not only expected but received by both parents, embarrassment will not be experienced when company comes. Good manners hastily taught in a few minutes of threatening and intimidation not only are an injustice to the children but will not accomplish anything worthwhile.
When guests are invited for social occasions in churches where there are cliques, considerable thought must be given to the problem so that the clique spirit will be dissolved and a spirit of comradeship achieved. This is sometimes a difficult task. The shepherdess and her husband have a work to do for every person, and recognizing that, they should understand that to be considered friendly to one group and offish to another can never result in a happy situation. I am glad to say that there are not many churches where such circumstances exist, but a minister never knows where he will be assigned. It is well to at least be conscious of the problem so that steps can be taken to be prepared for it, should it arise.
Entertainment is not the most important work a minister's wife has to do, but when it needs to be done it is important that it be done properly. We cannot consider this as does the world—expect to be repaid by receiving invitations from those we have invited as guests. Ours is a one way street, and unless love is the motivating- force behind our desire to be hospitable, it will be a source of discouragement to us. Our guests will often be those who have been invited from the "highways and byways," in an effort to lead them to Christ through love. This is Christianity, this is soul winning, and this is the primary goal of every minister and his wife.