The Practice of Hospitality at Manna House
What We Offer in Hospitality at Manna House
Manna House located at 1268
Jefferson is a place of hospitality in the neighborhood of Midtown Memphis. It is a place of welcome for homeless persons
and others in need. At Manna House we
welcome each guest with respect and compassion.
Many of those who come to Manna House live nearby, either in modest homes or on the streets. Others come to the neighborhood to eat a meal at the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen (called “the radio station”), located just a few blocks away. Manna House is a place to sit and visit before or after a meal there. It is a living room for people from the streets.
Manna House is open for hospitality every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from to Our hospitality takes a variety of forms. We offer a place where people can come inside for conversation or rest. (In warm weather our guests enjoy our backyard with picnic tables). We offer something to drink (coffee, and in warm weather cold water). We offer use of a bathroom. We offer showers that include a change of clothes. We offer some personal hygiene items and limited clothing items (such as T-shirts and socks).
Our Vision of Hospitality
In offering hospitality we affirm that hosting our guests involves not only providing needed material goods, but more importantly honoring our guests’ humanity and personhood. We are not a social service agency; rather we are persons welcoming other persons to share ourselves, our gifts, and gifts we have received from others. We seek to know our guests as persons with names, histories, and hopes. We seek to be stewards of God’s graciousness, not possessors of power and privilege dispensing charity from above. We seek to build relationships and we are not out to “save” people or remake them in our own image. We recognize and repent of our racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism, and we seek to create a community of hospitality in which all are welcomed as children of God. We recognize our own vulnerability and brokenness as we minister with our guests who are also vulnerable and broken.
We are committed to providing a place where everyone is treated with respect, both guests and volunteers. In engaging with each other as persons we refrain from the posting of rules. We do not ask for identification. We reject racist, sexist, and any other form of denigrating language. We respond to conflict in a spirit of peacemaking and nonviolent conflict resolution. We sometimes have to ask a guest to leave who has become disruptive or abusive so that the peace of hospitality may continue.
We abide by the vision and practices of Manna House that are necessary for the good order needed for hospitality. Among those practices is the recognition of the need for boundaries and limitations on what we can offer and when. We affirm that sometimes it is necessary to say “no” to a request from a guest in order to continue to say “yes” to those forms of hospitality to which we are committed for the long haul. We recognize our limitations and seek to be honest with our guests about what we can and cannot do.
Before we open at , we gather for a brief prayer. To prepare for the day, including making job assignments, and to make time for prayer we ask volunteers to arrive at We also gather at the end of each morning at for prayer and reflection. We consider this time together after we close to be crucial to our practice of hospitality. During this time we encourage each other to share our experiences from the morning of offering hospitality, to examine how we may improve in our practice of hospitality, and to bring all that we have done to God in prayer.
Areas of Practicing Hospitality at Manna House
Hospitality at Manna House revolves around two main areas: the clothing room and the frontporch/living room/dining room/backyard. A long-term volunteer guides the hospitality in each of the two areas. Other volunteers should rely upon the long-term volunteer for direction, and to answer any questions or to respond to problems that may arise. It is important for volunteers to work as a team that offers hospitality in ways consistent with the vision and practices of Manna House.
Please do not arrive at Manna House or seek to enter the house until . Prior to that time those who have arrived early to begin the coffee and engage in other work seek time for reflection and prayer.
When you arrive at please seek out the person in charge for that day for work assignments. Also, please be ready to immediately join in some tasks necessary for opening. These typically include filling the sugar containers, setting out items necessary for serving coffee, preparing items in the clothing room, wiping off picnic tables in the backyard or setting up chairs in the front yard.
All volunteers gather for a short prayer at about .
Persons offering hospitality in the clothing room area are responsible for offering showers, and sharing the hygiene and clothing items with guests who are signed up to receive these items. A volunteer will put the names of guests on two different lists. One list is for “socks and hygiene” and the other is for those who will shower. The person who “works the list” will begin signing up guests for the showers and clothing room before Manna House opens and also when the doors of Manna House open at The person working the list will also call the names of the guests in order and bring guests to the clothing room, telling the volunteers in the clothing room if the guest is there for a shower or for “socks and hygiene.” No guests should be in the clothing room if their name has not been called. Also, guests are not to re-enter the clothing room once they have been served.
Guests signed up for “socks and hygiene” may receive a shirt, socks, and hygiene items. We do not give out pants or underwear as these are reserved for persons who are showering. We do not have the resources to give out these items to everyone. Some hygiene items (such as deodorant) are only given out on specified Thursdays. Please respect these limitations. Although it is difficult to say “no” it is only in saying “no” to some needs that we are consistently able to say “yes” in meeting other needs. For the sake of the order needed to practice hospitality these limits are necessary.
On Mondays and Thursdays showers are offered for men. On Tuesdays, showers are offered for women. Guests sign-up for showers on the day previous to the day Manna House will be next open. Once a guest’s name has been called for the shower and he/she has been brought to the clothing room, other volunteers will assist the guest, giving him or her, a towel, wash cloth/face towel, razor, toothbrush, and assisting the guest in choosing clothes. Soap and shampoo are already in the showers. After guests shower and put on clean clothes, guests give us their dirty clothes. We launder these clothes and they are returned to the shelves of the clothing room to be used again.
There is also important work to be done in the “sorting room” which is at the back of the house. In this room donations are sorted and organized to be shared in the clothing room. Guests are not allowed in the sorting room. Shoes and coats are always stored in the clothing room. Shoes are given only to those on the shower list. Coats in the winter are given out at More on Monday, a meal served at Manna House each Monday beginning at .
Living room/dining room/backyard
Persons offering hospitality in the living room/dining room/front porch/backyard areas are responsible for serving coffee or other drinks. We strive to keep a steady supply of hot coffee ready for our guests, along with any other drinks we are serving. Persons working in this area of hospitality also need to attend to the sugar, creamer, and number of coffee cups to make sure there is a steady supply. We typically do not prepare or serve any food as this is not a type of hospitality we are equipped to provide during this time. We do, however, serve a meal on Mondays beginning at , and also on the third Thursday of each month at the monthly Foot Clinic.
In addition to preparing the coffee and maintaining the needed sugar, creamer and coffee cups, volunteers should attend to keeping these areas clean by picking up cups, cleaning the table, mopping up any spills, and emptying trash cans when full. It is also important to supervise the bathroom located off of the dining room, making sure it remains clean, and that guests who use the bathroom are using it for legitimate purposes.
Most importantly, volunteers working in these areas should engage in conversation with guests, getting to know them as persons. Please do not congregate in the kitchen, but enter into the living room/dining room/front porch/backyard areas to interact with our guests.
Closing Down, Reflecting, Praying, and Cleaning-up
At , we begin to let our guests know that we will be closing soon by announcing “last call” for coffee. We ask our guests to begin leaving at so that we can close down and have time to reflect and pray before cleaning-up. By we seek to have all guests out of the house and/or the backyard. It is very important that all volunteers help to direct guests to prepare for closing, so ending conversations, games, haircuts, etc. should begin by .
From to approximately noon., we gather to share our experiences from the morning’s work of hospitality, to reflect together, and to pray. This is a very important time for us to share experiences from the morning, to learn from each other’s experiences, and to gather our experiences up in prayer. Either before or following this time we turn to clean-up tasks: sweeping and mopping the living room and dining room, taking out trash, cleaning coffee pots, etc. We also clean the two bathrooms and the showers and sinks. Both bathrooms should also be mopped. Before leaving we need to make sure all windows are closed and locked, and all doors are locked.
Some Short “Do’s” and “Don’ts
Do welcome each guest with dignity and grace.
Do engage in conversation with guests.
Do learn names and stories.
Do keep a sense of humor and a sense of compassion.
Do follow the leadership and direction of those experienced long-term volunteers running each area of hospitality.
Do follow the leadership and direction of those experienced long-term volunteers running each area of hospitality.
Do ask questions.
Do be patient with yourself, with other volunteers and with guests.
Don’t give money if asked by a guest.
Don’t give rides to guests.
Don’t give out personal information such as phone number, address, etc. to guests.
Don’t lend your cell phone to guests.
Don’t use your cell phone unless absolutely necessary. Sitting playing games, searching the web, doing Facebook, etc. distract one from the practice of hospitality. If you must make a call or respond to a call do this in a room not frequented by guests.
Who Runs Manna House?
A nonprofit tax-exempt organization, Emmanuel House Manna, provides the funding for Manna House through donations from a variety of individuals, churches, and synagogues. Members of the Board of Emmanuel House Manna along with volunteers at Manna House set the vision and practices for Manna House. Monetary donations may be sent to Emmanuel House Manna,
53 N. Auburndale St,
Memphis, TN 38104. Donations of
clothing and other times may also be left on the front porch at this address or
brought to Manna House during the days and times Manna House is open. Please do NOT leave donations at Manna House
when it is not open.
Directions and Parking for Volunteers
Manna House is located at 1268
Jefferson. Please park
across the street in the parking lot provided by . Do not park
in the parking lot immediately next to Manna House. The owners of that building have asked us to
not park in that area. Mississippi Boulevard Church
Manna House’s Additional Ministries
More on Monday
More on Monday is a meal that is served every Monday. Guests arrive beginning around . Volunteers should arrive by
Every third Thursday Manna House provides a foot clinic. Guests sign up in advance for this evening which involves dinner, foot washing, and evaluation/treatment by a foot doctor.
Some of the Inspiration for Our Hospitality
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’” Genesis 18:1-5
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day….” This is what the Lord commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs… Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” Exodus 16:4, 16, 19
“Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from you own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly… Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and God will say, Here I am.” Isaiah 58:6-9
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1-2
“Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” 1 Peter 4:8-10
“The stranger requires much attendance, much encouragement, and with all this it is difficult for him not to feel abashed; for so delicate is his position that whilst he receives the favor, he is ashamed. That shame we ought to remove by the most attentive service, and to show by words and actions, that we do not think we are conferring a favor, but receiving one, that we are obliging, less than we are obliged.”
Chrysostom, Homily 14 on 1
Timothy St. John
“If you cannot relieve, do not grieve the poor. Give them soft words, if nothing else. Abstain from either sour looks or harsh words. Let them be glad to come, even though they should go empty away. Put yourself in the place of every poor person; and deal with him as you would God should deal with you.” John Wesley, in
Christine Pohl, Making Room, 71.
“You will find that charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the basket of bread. But you must keep your gentleness and your smile. Giving soup and bread isn’t all that the rich can do. You are the little servant of the poor, the maid of charity, always smiling and in good humor. They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting as you will see, but the uglier and dirtier they are, the more unjust and bitter, the more you must give them of your love. It is only because of your love that the poor will forgive you.”
St. Vincent De Paul (1581-1660)
“Those who offer hospitality are not so much providing a service as they are sharing their lives with the people who come to them.” –
Christine Pohl, Making Room, 71-72.