Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Christine on the "loss of hospitiality in the church":

There are several key points at which the practice of hospitality in the church began to change. One is after Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire and took on significant social responsibilities for the larger population. At that point the Church had to deal with the reality of a lot more needy people, and simultaneously a lot more resources. You see the very beginnings of the institutionalization of care. Hospitality is by definition personal and somewhat intimate, but as institutions grow and develop, the hospitality itself becomes more distant. I try to communicate in the book that I’m not casting that as a “fall from grace.” I just think it was a response to a need, with unintended consequences. I don’t think they saw the downside coming. When you read about how they celebrated the first hospitals, you realize that they only saw the good stuff, which was that people who hadn’t been taken care of were now being cared for.

Secondly, care for the poor and the sick was increasingly distinguished from “hospitality” to people with resources and wealth. As the church began entertaining the wealthy, “hospitality” became a way of consolidating power. Care for the poor began to happen at more of a distance. Interestingly, the language of hospitality continued until the beginnings of the modern period, long after the practice of hospitality had shifted, and you read people like John Calvin worrying about the loss of the practice of hospitality.

By the time you get to the 18th century, the language changes. Samuel Johnson said, “Hospitality is not effective in a commercial society.” He’s talking about hospitality as entertainment, and that it is no longer seen as an effective way to consolidate power.

We, the church, ordained and laity, really ought to take an inventory of our congregations and ask ourselves, "who is not represented within our congregations"- are they persons of color? are they persons of different socio-economic status? are they persons of different sexual orientations? are they....?

The idea is not to go out and recruit people in the name of inclusivity, because they are not present in our church, but to be open to God's Holy Spirit that speaks in diversity (acts 2). If that family shows up who are homeless, are immegrants who speak little english, or same sex partners show up looking for a faith home then those who practice hospitality will extend the peace and love of Christ to them because they represent to us "Christ the Stranger".

This practice is not about doctrine, about "the right theology", about "who's a sinner and who isn't, it's simply about offering sacred space to those weary pilgrims who wander through your doors with a whole life experience that you nothing about until you've befriended them. In fact, more than likely you won't know their background until you've committed to a level of trust and friendship with those persons.



Zoomdaddy said...

Oh no! You mean we have to be accountable for those who we have distanced ourselves from? Whatever shall the American homogeneous-demographic church growth theorists do?

St.Phransus said...

i hear there's an evil plot to create a machine that will transform a person into any kind of person that fits the demographic of your congregation- Its called the "Church-Growth-A-Matic Generator", guaranteed results for all congregations.

We'll never have to be worried again about who God might just send through our doors. After just "40 days" they can will look, act, and believe exactly the same way as our congregation.


Zoomdaddy said...

That is absolutely hilarious!!!!!!!