HOSPITALITY MINISTRY

Posted by secondchurch on March - 21 - 2018

Reflections from Pastor Mark

Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring [people] over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.       ̶̶̶ Henri J. M. Nouwen

I have lived in five different states and more than 20 residences throughout my adult life. I have served eight different congregations and visited countless churches throughout Massachusetts with my wider church affiliations. Each of these places had different belief systems and ways of being community. The thing that stands out the most to me, in terms of how I perceive my fondness for the people in those places, is hospitality.

I lived for ten years in Nashville, Tennessee and a year in Birmingham, Alabama. People in the Northeast most often cringe when I refer to those places because they associate them with racism and fundamentalist Christianity. While that may be part of the mindset in those places, that was not my experience. In fact, I was invited into more homes for the year I lived in Birmingham than for the seven years I have lived in Boston. The hospitality I received in Nashville was so meaningful that I keep up with a number of those folks who had me into their homes, even though it’s been over twenty years since I lived there and despite the fact that we have little in common. The one thing we do have in common is a shared story that includes hopes and dreams held in mutual respect.

Hospitality ministry is one of the foundations of our Judeo-Christian faith, so important that there would be no Christian Church were it not for people opening their homes to form churches. They didn’t build churches or rent buildings. They had church in their homes. House churches still thrive around the world. When I did mission work in Honduras, we had prayer meetings and worship in shanties of squatter villages. During my most recent trip to Puerto Rico, we could hear hymns being sung by small groups of people around sundown several nights a week. These were house churches where people invited the community together to talk about scripture and to praise God.

Hospitality is more than having food and beverages for people and entertaining them. In fact food and beverages need not be part of the equation. According to Joan Chittister, “Hospitality means that we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.”

What this means to me is that there will be racism in the world until you and I begin to take other races into our homes and churches. There will be war until you and I begin to take the enemy into our homes and churches. There will be classism in the world until you and I begin to take the other segments of society into our own worlds and lives and parties and neighborhoods.

The number one rule of hospitality is that every guest – young and old, rich and impoverished, the ones from our own family and those who are strangers – is received with the same care, the same warmth, the same dignity, and the same attention.

I can tell you that Second Church is very good at providing hospitality for people who happen to come to our building for worship or for a community event. Hospitality by happenstance works sometimes, but the most profound form of hospitality begins with an invitation.

You might say, “I want you to see why I love this community.” You might say, “I will pick you up Sunday. I think you will love our music program.” You might say, “I have found peace here for an hour each Sunday like I don’t find anywhere else. I’d like to share that with you.” Or, “Come to church with me and we can hang out with other youth and young adults at brunch after worship next week.”

The numbers of ways to invite others are innumerable just as there are innumerable reasons to extend hospitality. Just think: you can help others find peace and a sense of belonging with a simple invitation. The community will help provide the hospitality.

There are ample opportunities for hospitality these next few months with our visiting S. African missionary on March 25, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the Iftar dinner on May 29,, and more.

Won’t you invite others and help us provide hospitality – for their sake and for the sake of breaking down the barriers of a divided nation and world? If we don’t begin this work of repairing the breaches of our society, who will?
Pastor Mark Seifried          MarkSeifried@icloud.com

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