Ours is a world of isolation. We are lonely and detached from real relationships. We search for connection, welcome, the prospect of being known, of being valued.
Yet it’s apparent that our society has spiraled into enemy mode, regarding others as potential threats, rather than as neighbors. We draw dividing lines separating us from them; from those who are different, who possess different points of view. American society wreaks of hostility.
And I bet you’re tired of hearing this.
Yet, what if the cure to the current zeitgeist, the “spirit of our times,” is something accessible to all of us? Not a remedy requiring nothing from us, but one that is totally doable for all of us. A golden thread that has always held us together.
What if the antidote to the “spirit of hostility” is hospitality?
Hospitality is one of our core values at Fall Creek Abbey and is Friday’s liturgy in Prayers at Twilight: Daily Liturgies for the In-Between Times. Here’s a brief excerpt.
We come to this twilight moment influenced by a culture that keeps its door closed to strangers. Entertaining to impress is the counterfeit of hospitality, as we simultaneously shut our doors to those “not like us,” whether because of race, sexuality, age, status, politics, or beliefs.
Hospitality is an intrusion, pressing in, exposing our biases and our underdeveloped capacities to love and serve others.
Hospitality interferes with our time and taxes our resources. It costs us something to welcome others into our homes and into our lives.
Hospitality is inconvenient. It interrupts the pursuit of our own plans and pleasures. It disrupts our equilibrium, the pursuit of our own perfect lives.
And hospitality interrogates us, “about our own acceptance of the foreigner, the stranger, the seeker, the lost, the ones who are not like us, who may well be, ‘certain kinds of people from certain kinds of places.’ Hospitality calls us to standards of humanity which communicate clearly that welcome is our brand. Regardless.” (Joan Chittister, The Monastic Heart)
Yet, living hospitably is a neglected regimen for what ails us. It is a quiet, often hidden, yet sacred ministry of welcome where recipients may not recall the meal served but will remember how they felt. They will recall the sensation of being “received with honor as if they were Christ.” (The Rule of St. Benedict)
Hospitality heals and transforms us. Both of us. It heals the person offering it and the person receiving it. It heals the hospitable by confronting our superstitions about strangers and challenges us to expand our worldview. Hospitality heals the person receiving it by establishing a relational connection rooted in love and acceptance.
Again, quoting Joan Chittister, “Hospitality is meant to be civilization making. It is the model of inclusion. It is the foundation for world peace in its openness everywhere to everyone, no racial, national, religious credentials necessary.”
Yes, these sound like exaggerated claims for such an innocuous act of loving welcome. Yet after receiving more than 9,000 guests at Fall Creek Abbey, and administering this healing balm, we are bold to defend its efficacy!
We have come to believe that hospitality is the Christian ministry for all times. It is a uniquely human ministry belonging to all. Each century that has passed has been carried forward by this world-wide, yet simple way of sharing who we are and what we have to offer one another. None of us would likely be here today had not someone offered us a meal, or refuge, or a safe place to be cared for. Hospitality has saved the world over and over again. And hospitality is needed today as much as it ever has been!
There’s a sign in the front yard at Fall Creek Abbey. It reads, “Love Thy Neighbor. No Exceptions.” It’s another way of saying, “Welcome is our brand. Regardless.”
If you are interested in learning more about Intentional hospitality: Practicing the Art of Welcoming, here is a 90-minute seminar we recently offered on the topic.
This blog is the seventh in a series on The Shaping of a Life about the values that have given shape to our lives and Fall Creek Abbey. You can read the introduction here.
And if you’d like to purchase a copy of Prayers at Twilight, you can do so here!