Freerange Friday! Welcome and Hospitality

By Lilly Lewin

I am one of those people who like the house to be clean when people come over.

In fact, our family joke is that you have to have a party or have company over in order to get the house cleaned!

Why is that? Why do we think we have to have things ”in order” in order to show hospitality?

Why does “perfection” stop us from being inviting or welcoming?

I do want people to know that we planned for them to be there and the space feel restful and inviting rather than cluttered and chaotic. But too often in my past life, I didn’t practice hospitality because I didn’t like how my house looked or I was just too busy to make it happen!

I do believe that hospitality is a PRACTICE. It’s a spiritual practice of welcome.

According to the dictionary and wikipedia,

Welcome is a word that means: 1. Received with pleasure and hospitality into one’s company or home: a welcome guest. 2. Giving pleasure or satisfaction; agreeable or gratifying: a welcome respite from hard work. :  willingly permitted or admitted

Hospitality : the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.

What does Welcome mean in 2017? What does it really mean to you?

Think about a time when you have you felt the most welcome…

What was it about this time or place or people?

What does it mean to be an open and inviting person or to provide an open and inviting space for people to be in?

A safe space for discussion

A peaceful place for rest

An inviting space for relaxation and conversation

Listening instead of pontificating

Waiting for others to join in rather than demanding that they do so

Serving rather than being served

Bringing peace instead of conflict and fear

Working for the Greater Good of all people not my own way

Where do you feel the most welcome in your life?

Why?

What places provide you with the most welcome and hospitality?

Why?

What attributes make a place welcoming and inviting?

Are there places that have been less than hospitable to you?

How did that make you feel?

What things stop you from providing welcome to strangers or even to friends?

One spring I was traveling to San Francisco and I was working for a friend at his church. The friend who was going to be my host had a death in his family and had to leave town. I was stuck in a strange city and didn’t really know how to get from place to place. This was way before uber and lyft and smart phones. Thankfully I had some friends who were willing to take me in, their daughter gave up her room for me to stay in and bunked with her brothers. These folks didn’t want me to have to stay in a strange hotel in a strange city by myself. They welcomed me in the midst of their regular life, even in the midst of remodeling!

Another time, my husband and I were doing a summer course in the UK and taking time to check out communities of faith doing alternative worship. At one of these, a new friend, we had just met at the gathering, gave us a ride all the way back from London to Oxford. So instead of us having to race to make the last train, we had a beautiful nighttime tour of London in a convertible and a free ride back to Oxford!

Both of these experiences showed me that I knew very little about the gift or the practice of hospitality. And both of these acts of hospitality and welcome encouraged me to begin! Rob and I now have hospitality and welcome as big part of our life and our community, but it all began with baby steps!

Sadly, 2017, Fear and terrorism have caused us to stop reaching out to the stranger.

If we’ve ever had our hospitality or our generosity abused, then we are hesitant to share again.

Sometimes we need help to get started.

Partner with others who have the gift of hospitality.

Help each other!

Use your gifts to share food, shelter, etc with those who need it.

Jesus said “When you do it unto the least of these you’ve done it unto me.”

Jesus said to start with a cup of cold water….

Start small. Baby steps. Begin with those closest to you!

Remember that hospitality is hard work. It’s taxing, it takes effort and focus and giving up things in order to provide space for other people. It’s a risk. You provide space and time for people you may or may not know and you may or may not like or agree with and with no guarantee that they will be appreciative.

That’s why so many of us hang out with people just like our selves because taking the extra step and going the extra mile to hang out with and get to know people unlike ourselves takes time and intentionality.

Here is a prayer station my friend Archie Honrado and I created for the National Youth Workers Convention this year. You can use it as a part of a larger prayer room like  the At The Table Sacred Space found at freergangeworship.com or as response to a talk or sermon on hospitality and welcome. This is a prayer station/prayer response designed to help us pray and take action around welcome and hospitality.

 

START HERE:

Set up the station (or multiples of the same station around your worship space) or use this as a corporate response for your entire community following a teaching on welcome and hospitality.

Have a welcome mat in front of each table (station) that people will stand on as they read the signs and pray at the station. The response: people will write down on a paper welcome mat, specific ways they want to practice hospitality and welcome in the days and weeks ahead.

If you use this as a corporate response where everyone responds at the same time. Have small welcome mats printed out and place a stack in the pews or on the chairs. You can pass these out after the talk/sermon and have pens or pencils available on the chairs or in the pews so people can write down their responses on their welcome mats. Have everyone do the response together giving them examples of things they can “practice,” and giving them time to respond. After a few minutes, have them hold their welcome mat papers and pray this prayer together out loud.

PRAYER:

Lord help us to bring the welcome of your love and light to all those we meet this week.

Help us to provide welcome to the stranger and to those who are not like us.

Help us to put aside our fears and our busyness and anything that prevents us from providing welcome and practicing hospitality.

Show us tangible ways to bring welcome.

Provide us with partners and helpers who can show us how to be more welcoming.

Thank you that you welcome us in your love each day.

Help us to live in this welcome and in this love so we can share it.

AMEN! 

PRAYER STATION Signage to print out:

Welcome People to the TABLE

How can we PURSUE Jesus, FOLLOW Him and Shine God’s love and light on our friends and practice hospitality and welcome in our homes and in our communities?

In our neighborhoods?

In our churches?

In our schools?

In our work places?

On our teams?

And in our Clubs?

Where and HOW can you practice hospitality in your neighborhood?

At work?

At School? Etc.

Have the conversation with Jesus about Welcome & Hospitality.

How does Jesus feel about welcoming the stranger?

How do you feel about welcome? What are your fears or hesitations?

Talk to Jesus about them.

Pray for people and groups who do not feel welcomed in our churches and in our neighborhoods.

Write down on the small welcome mats ways you want to welcome& include others…

Take it home to continue to pray!

Pray for people and groups who do not feel welcomed in our churches and in our neighborhoods.

Pray for people and/or groups who don’t feel welcome in our churches and often in our cities and neighborhoods too.

Examples:

  • Have lunch with someone who thinks differently than you and listen to his/her story. Ask questions, be open &really get to know them
  • Have some new friends over for dinner and learn about their lives. Listen, ask questions, don’t judge.
  • Doing something you love to do? Invite someone to join you
  • Throw a block party for your neighborhood
  • Make cookies and deliver them to all your neighbors, not just the ones you know well.
  • Go to a meeting or gathering of a group that is very different from you and go as a learner. Listen! Learn! Ask Questions. Be present. Don’t judge.

freerangeworship.com