Towards Hospitality

Some insightful thoughts on hospitality from the Center For Parish Development:

Contemporary images of hospitality—and of community—tend to be shaped by an “ideology of intimacy.” Such an approach emphasizes sameness, closeness, warmth, and comfort. Difference, distance, conflict, and sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. A facade of harmony is maintained by eliminating the strange and cultivating the familiar, by suppressing dissimilarity and emphasizing agreement. Those who are strange—“other than we are”—must either be excluded or quickly made to be “like us.” The image is of homogeneous communities of retreat where persons must be protected from one another—and from outsiders—and where reality is suppressed and denied due to fear and anxiety...

It is true that the stranger represents an unknown and sometimes dangerous figure. Yet three key events in the New Testament—Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost—all recount the coming of a divine stranger. In each case the newcomer brings blessings and gifts which both disorient and transform. “The child in the manger, the traveler on the road to Emmaus, and the mighty wind of the Spirit all meet us as mysterious visitors, challenging our belief systems even as they welcome us to new worlds.”  The stranger plays a central role in biblical stories of faith and for good reason. “The religious quest, the spiritual pilgrimage, is always taking us into new lands where we are strange to others and they are strange to us. Faith is a venture into the unknown, into the realms of mystery, away from the safe and comfortable and secure.”

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