In Chapter 6, we move toward the margins. Pohl brings us up to speed on the historical migration of Christian practice from the margins, where it emerged, to the center - thank you Constantine! While the normalization of Christian practice is more complex than one post, one podcast, or one chapter can cover, Pohl helps us understand why the practice of sacred hospitality becomes more difficult when the practitioners are connected with social, political, and economic power.
In this chapter, we meet some model citizens who have used their social locations, their wealth, and their access to resources as a means of moving further into the margins and welcoming all kinds of strangers in the spirit of faithful hospitality. Some of the most notable are Fabiola, Olympias, and a name more familiar to most of us... Dorothy Day.
Each of these faithful women took their own economic securities and used them to offer "home" to strangers, refugees, and anyone who came seeking welcome. Their incredible stories cause us to wonder how we might use our lives and our resources to expand our welcome as a congregation and as individuals. What resources do we have that we might use to love and welcome strangers in need of refuge?
One additional (and necessary) piece of the chapter is that Pohl reminds us of the necessity to become marginal. A host cannot fully welcome another I the host is unfamiliar with marginality. Do you have any experiences of marginality or exclusion that might help you better host others?
To harken back to the previous chapter... How might we become "bridge people" who understand both the world of power and the world of disempowerment? Connectivity and disconnection? Centrality and marginality? Participation and exclusion?
Who or what is a stranger? In this chapter (5) Pohl defines "stranger" and then helps us understand different kinds of strangers. The chapter is a beautifully written piece that calls us to consider all types of outsiders and in that understanding, to begin to break down the magnitude of risk and vulnerability that keeps so many of us paralyzed when we think about becoming hosts... welcoming strangers.
The best part of the chapter, for me (Chrissy), is on the last page when Pohl reminds us that as we practice hospitality, we may start small, but our embrace of others will grow wider and wider. We don't have to do the hardest thing first! But we do need to do something soon!
What will you do?
How's everyone enjoying the book / study guide / podcast so far? We've been hearing from a few of you and are so encouraged by your thoughts and comments - Keep them coming!
This week is one of the best so far... in my opinion. Pohl gets into some really interesting content about hospitality as resistance. In this fourth chapter of the book She explains the importance of recognition, resect, and dignity as critical components of hospitality as a spiritual practice rather than an act of charity. The chapter really gets good in the second half when Pohl names the "tensions" within the practice. Some of those are things like: hospitality and human rights, hospitality and the deserving/undeserving, hospitality and security, and the problems with associating hospitality with belief.
This chapter was so good that we just couldn't stop talking about it (which is why this episode is nearly 57 minutes long!). At the end, we find ourselves wrestling with questions like these:
1- What are some of the barriers that are currently in place that keep some populations invisible?
2- What is the difference between helping people and sharing our lives with them?
3- What do meals mean in your household? In your church?
4- How do you feel about encountering God and knowing that you will be held accountable for the ways you have responded to strangers?
Listen in as we discuss this chapter; and don't forget to tell us what you're thinking as you participate in the study!
This second week of Advent and Making Room, we are exploring the history of hospitality. What was it in the ancient world, when/how did it change, and what was lost in the transitions?
In the second chapter of the full book, Pohl walks us through the spiritual and moral dimensions of hospitality in Christian history. She reminds us throughout the chapter to remember that Christian hospitality is counter-cultural because it transgresses lines of social and economic class. Rather than being host to friends, family, or people you aspire to befriend, the Christian host opens her doors to those who can never repay the favor. It is non-transactional. We see this play out in the life and ministry of Jesus who was always inviting to the table those who did not belong. Whether he was at the party as guest or host, Jesus made sure that those on the margins of society were invited guests to the proverbial (and literal) banquet tables of his time.
Interestingly Pohl links this subversive behavior of Jesus to the incarnation of Christ as servant. God makes God's own self human as a servant, transcending all boundaries that existed between the divine and human, and in so doing, God becomes flesh as an outsider, a refugee, a child of questionable birth, a stranger. Because God has come into the world in such a way, and because Jesus modeled for us how to host the stranger, the outsider, the one who did not belong... it is our moral obligation and our Christian response to go and do likewise.
In the ancient world, this bold hospitality was practiced widely among Christians. The faith depended upon it. The lines between church and home were nothing like they are today and the proliferation of the Gospel often happened around hosts' tables. As people gathered to eat, relationships were forged, and the Good News of God's work of inclusion and welcome spread. But overtime, the church began to take on its own life outside of private homes. In addition, the commercialization of hotels, hospitals, etc. meant that in-home hospitality of strangers and travelers became less and less common. Household structures also changed and became smaller as each generation sought independence. With more adults are working, fewer generations under one roof, and more children are in school, most homes went from being bustling centers of family life, to structures that remain empty most of the time. These shifts are only a few of those outlined by Pohl in chapters 2 and 3!
With all this change, it's no wonder the art of Christian hospitality has been lost along the way. So how might we begin to recover it?
Listen in as we work our way through these two jam-packed chapters and begin to think (out loud) about the possibility of recovering the lost art of Christian hospitality.
This Sunday we enter the season of Advent. This Sunday, we also kick off the study of Dr. Christine Pohl's book, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. I am thrilled that the church is providing the Study Guides to this book for FREE to all who want to participate in this 8-week study (while supplies last)! Get your copy at the Welcome Desk on Sunday mornings or by contacting Caroline in the church office during the week. The study guides are awesome because they help us think deeply about the spiritual practice of hospitality as we process the content in the longer book.
There are two ways you can access the content of the longer book:
1 - Buy (or check-out) the book. Making Room, by Christine Pohl. It's available on online and in the public library.
2 - Listen to the podcasts
3 - Both!
In the podcasts, we will talk through the content of each chapter and highlight some of the more significant (in our opinion) questions that each chapter raises for us as we work through the material.
As you follow along in the study guides, read through the questions and spend time with each one. You might want to read the scripture for each chapter every day of the week and then really sit with one of the questions for the whole day. Go slow! This is a really big topic that is absolutely counter-cultural. So if you take your time with the questions, you stand to experience profound spiritual growth as you work through the book.
We think all podcasts and blogs are better when there are comments. I know it's a little scary to write out your soul and post it online for the whole world to see. But, I look at our viewership and I can promise you, the whole world is not reading the blog. More seriously, almost 100% of the time, you're not along in your thoughts, vulnerability or questions. Your courage to post might inspire someone else who is participating in the study to share her/his thoughts as well. And every post makes the experience better for everyone!
All that being said, here's episode 1. In this episode we break down the content from the first chapter and consider the ways that the evolution of our culture has shaped our understanding of hospitality. And, we look at the chasm that exists between cultural hospitality (i.e. the hospitality industry) and the ancient spiritual practice of Christian hospitality.