For years we have been aware that our churches may not be the most hospitable place for visitors. So we have done things we hoped would improve that situation. We have added comfortable couches in front of fireplaces, we have visited more with our fellow church members, we have made coffee and snacks available and gathered around all the little tables to chat an hour away together. We have, in short, often made the church over into a hospitable home, where we belong and actually feel at home. Nice for us. But even less welcoming to a stranger who doesn’t belong. What stranger will go sit on a couch in front of a strange fireplace among chatting people?
We want to create safe space for forming Christian community with persons who have no community yet as well as with our already existing friends in the faith. We want to practice such openness in whatever way actually welcomes strangers.
We seldom venture out among strangers ourselves. When we do, we keep our guard up, notice people who might not want us there, and perhaps react suspiciously when something happens to us out there, even when the thing happening might be someone’s way of trying to welcome us. We are more comfortable in strange places if we can bring something, give something, donate something. It gives us a sense of purpose and maybe a little control.
We actually want to be able to recognize when someone is trying to welcome us. We want to receive their welcome, and not need to be the person in control of the interaction. But we don’t know how to do this.
If you’d like to know more about how to welcome others into your church space and relationships, and about how to notice and receive hospitality from others, come to a “Hospitality” workshop and get practicing! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and help build bridges within God’s mission in and for the world.