Katie’s Bay View – Hospitality Sitting with Gladness

Last May, at the annual meeting of our congregation, where we hold the annual elections as well as do the business of the church, we voted to change the name of the Membership Committee to Hospitality and Membership. This name change was recommended to the congregation after much consideration and thought and because the change would be reflected in the bylaws of the church. So as this came up for a vote, one of our members, a person of color, was concerned about the use of the word hospitality. Did we really mean it, or were we simply using it as a superficial term to dress us up?
Many spoke to her worry by reaffirming that when in using the word hospitality, we meant it in the spiritual sense, as made known in the monastic community of St. Benedict, where the practice is listening. There it is known as radical hospitality, and it means to make room for “the other” for the more marginalized, for those who are often left out of community.
I have taken this concern as a caution, however. I know, that for the most part, our community tends to be homogenous. For us to cultivate a practice of hospitality, we might want to look at the way we do things—everyday, common things, things we do without thinking because they have become second nature to us. How do we welcome new people at the door, show them to the sanctuary? What elements of worship might seem exclusive rather than inclusive? Do we invite newcomers to stay for coffee, even when they haven’t stood up to introduce themselves? Do we chat with them after saying hello? Do we share the peace during worship? After worship, do we run off to a meeting when our newer members might need to deepen connections? Sometimes making room for “the other” can be as simple as accepting someone new, learning to “listen” rather putting ourselves first.
As we enter the month of September, as we mark with ceremony the importance of our time spent together in community, let us step above our own needs to look out for others. Then, we find, hospitality sitting with gladness.