Space making

Following are three descriptions of different hospitality practices. As you read, notice the elements that stand out to you and those that are familiar.

Practice 1

Every household connected to the project is committed to sharing their home with community in some way. Several are doing this through short-term foster care, one has a student living with them for low rent. Two have volunteered in a community placement program for refugees, and each have someone from South Sudan living with them for a period of 6 months. Others with less flexibility in their home, offer their home a couple of times a month for meetings connected with the project, social gatherings and special events. They do have a main building for the project, which is also home to three different community organisations who use it weekly. Every six months there is a BBQ and family afternoon for anyone connected to the projects to come along and be together. With many different people coming in and out of their doors and sharing equipment, they have needed to develop their own ‘sharing spaces’ approach. This is documented as a system of values and ways of communicating that help the different groups address conflict when it arises or if there are difficulties around the use of resources.

Practice 2

At the end of their gathering, everyone is invited to stay for a light meal. The kitchen is setup with plates, cups, serving platters and everything needed to make a cuppa. The process has been developed into a well oiled machine. There are always plenty of helpers to ensure everyone gets served. The shopping list has been the same for several years – a certain number of biscuits, tea bags, cordial for kids and a cake or slice. Occasionally someone brings along fresh fruit from home to cut up and share. Within 45 minutes or so, depending on the day, everything is washed up and put away neatly, ready for the next week.

Practice 3

For ten years, this project has been facilitating a community festival in their town at Easter time. The event has many different elements but is overall focussed on families. The team invite anyone from different organisations in the local community to be part of shaping the festival, sharing their ideas, music, art or running activities. There is a shared vision of celebrating community, family and the reconciliation & hope of Easter but beyond this there is room to be creative. Volunteers are recruited, but they often don’t show up on the day and those that do don’t always cover all the setup and pack-up work that needs to be done. Also, promotion of the event often falls to the facilitation team. In recent years a new organisation asked to be part of the festival, but many existing volunteers were concerned about it. There was several weeks of conversation and issues raised, but in the end the facilitating team said yes. The festival is a significant project that takes up the first three months of the year, but after running it for so long it the team has built great relationships across the community. Even though the facilitation team don’t formally ‘own’ the festival or use their name on marketing materials, they have grown a reputation for being generous, hard working and committed to serving the community.

Questions

  • What are the key differences in the stories?
  • Where is hospitality being lived out in each story?
  • What theological ideas do you think are being lived out in each story?
  • What is your understanding of the word ‘hospitality’ in the Christian faith?
  • What aspects of each scenario are expressions of hospitality?
  • If you put yourself in the shoes of an outsider or new person, what is being communicated non verbally to you in each scenario?
  • Is there a relationship between self sacrifice, risk or generosity and hospitality?
  • Where in your life are you the ‘guest’? What does it look like to be gracious guest?

Wisdom from the pews

“One way to look at innovative missional projects is to see them as experiments in making all of life a liturgy. Each project asks in different ways: How do we express, share and practice faith beyond a Sunday service? ”

“How might we connect new people to the Good News, who have never had an experience of the Christian tradition? Being open to the local community and engaging regularly with ‘outsiders’ was helpful in preventing projects from becoming too inwardly focussed. ”

“Practicing reciprocal hospitality acknowledges that everyone in community, regardless of their role, brings both an ability to contribute and a need for support. This is the foundation of ‘with’ relationships, as apposed to ‘for’ or ‘to’ relationships. In these relationships, the ‘target audience’ for a project are listened to and their experience informs decision making. ”

“Projects in the research used an open minded, hospitality centred approach to ‘take Jesus down from the altar’ or ‘out of the building’ with an intention to help new people feel safe and comfortable to connect with faith. As one participant said “We sought to close the gap between the church and the real world.””

Going deeper

Nadia Bolz-Webber on Hospitality

A brief sermon titled “Weirdos welcome in the Kingdom” from Nadia Bolz-webber of House for all Sinners & Saints in Denver.