How do we welcome, and live radical hospitality?
At the Welcome Wednesday community meal this week there was a festive ambiance. The Aviva insurance company was donating some monies to SouthWest for a Harvest Celebration, thanks to Darlene for submitting our name! The theme was Better Together/Mieux Ensemble and there was lots of joy as “Chewbacca” visited Breakfast Club, then local musician Bud Rice played during the lunch, and guest Chef Atena worked in the kitchen with Léonore and volunteer cooks to produce a Persian-inspired meal. Two families, newly arrived to Canada and with us for the first time, asked if the special moment was for them. Of course it was! And for all of us!
Welcome is an important part of the moments, seasons and changes in our lives. Helping people feel part of community and a sense of belonging is much of what we do as a community of faith.
I remember wanting to worship at a local church on a vacation Sunday only to find they had merged with another congregation that day. No one thought to put that information on the front door. No welcome there! I turned away frustrated.
I remember the guest for baptism wearing their cap and the complaint that in essence said, hats in church are disrespectful. Ever take your child to worship and have someone turn to you and say an infamous: Shush?! How did these words and attitude touch these persons? How would we feel? Not very welcomed.
There is a wonderful gospel story about mothers bringing their babies and children to Jesus. (Mark 10: 13-16). They heard of his welcome and inclusion, in a world where women and children had no recognized legal value, which was radical for its time. Jesus stopped what he was doing, turned to smile, hold babies and bless them and their mothers. He was criticized by his male disciples who said these interlopers were disturbing the status quo. “Shush!” they said to the children! Throughout the gospels Jesus often practiced this radical hospitality in his ministry especially towards those on the fringes of society and religion.
We learn how to live a more radical hospitality from this story. That we must:
- Let people (and children) interrupt what we are doing.
- Affirm that relationships are more important than rules.
- Open our circles (sometimes they look like cliques) to include the newcomer.
- Speak a word of welcome (go out of our way!).
- Celebrate the welcome in a ritual, song, or blessing. (holding needs in prayer, blessing children and parents, singing our joy!).
I enjoy this chorus, by Gordon Light, of welcome to a widening circle. It speaks to all the moments of gathering including last week’s Méli-Melo ( with 13 children and 14 adults) and worship at the Mission for September and October.
Arms open wide we sing:
Draw the circle wide! Draw it wider still!!
Let this be our song, no one stands alone,
standing side by side, draw the circle wide.
Traçons un grand cercle. Traçons le plus grand.
C’est notre seul chant, nul n’est solitaire,
debut solidaires, traçons un grand cercle.
(More Voices #145)