As the last guest finished filling their plate from the platters and bowls lined up on the side table next to the larger dining table, we all stared anxiously at our mother, waiting for the look that gave the ‘all clear’ sign. Yes, I grew up in one of those families that embraced the hospitality mantra ‘family serves last.’ And honestly, there was never any grumbling or grousing from my siblings. Waiting for my mother to sit, pulling out her chair, and always letting her go first through the door were manners we were raised with. Yet, in many respects, the values our parents taught us had as much to do with humility and hospitality for everyone who came into our home as they did with etiquette.
Theologian and longtime friend and colleague The Rev. Dr. Sheryl Kujawa writes, “Congregations committed to breaking from the status quo are called to develop a sense of ‘radical hospitality.’ Rather than seeking out like-members for mutual support, they seek people who consider themselves beyond the reach of organized religion. ‘Radical hospitality’ has not only social, but political and economic implications; it is the act of extending community beyond the margins to those unserved by church, synagogue, or mosque. Rather than limiting their public theology to outreach or charity that maintains the unjust distribution of power and resources, congregations formed in radical hospitality exercise a commitment to justice. This model seeks to transforms both the believer and society as a whole.”
Fundamentally, the Beloved Community in ECMN that we aspire to is rooted in radical hospitality. It is the desire to live into the fullness of our Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” God’s mission is to reconcile all of God’s creation. The realization of this reconciliation will be the Kingdom of God on earth, the Beloved Community. The pathway to the Beloved Community for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus of Nazareth is the Way of Love. The Way of Love is manifested in the expression of radical hospitality.
And now a huge shout out! Over the last several weeks YOUR Team of Missioners has very publicly manifested radical hospitality: at the ECMN Convention, the House of Bishops meeting, the House of Bishop’s spouse retreat, and in the ECMN Gathering Space. On each of these occasions (and on numerous ones leading up to them), your Missioners aspired to make sure that all those who were in attendance, regardless of who/what/where they came from, experienced that their dignity as a child of God was being respected. This is the daily work of YOUR Team of Missioners. Each and every day they aspire to be a resource of radical hospitality both for our faith communities and for the neighborhood where they work at the ECMN offices.
The wonderful fruit of this work is that time and time again we all are blessed with the experience of participating in becoming the Beloved Community.