Today I want to tackle food and hospitality and the role common eating plays in each of them. I also want to be fairly specific about what I mean when I say hospitality. When I refer to hospitality, I’m not referring so much to laying on nice dinner parties for friends or being the person who always has an abundance of food available to people who happen to drop by.
These are good things, but when I say hospitality, I’m referring to helping the stranger, or even the enemy. I certainly can’t lay any claim to being the best or most consistent host, but over the course of time, I’m constantly being reminded about how sharing food together creates bonds that last. For me the strongest reminder of this was a few years ago, when, in a coffee shop, I was approached by one of the refugees I mentioned in the last post, who remembered me(I didn’t remember him at first), in large part because I had once, a decade earlier, had him and his brother, along with a couple of mutual friends, over for dinner at my apartment.
I’m a good cook, but I can assure you my dishes aren’t so memorable that people talk about them a decade later. What this does illustrate is the power of food and of eating together to make lasting impressions on people.
This has major implications for our churches. Not only is this a great way to provide welcome for newcomers, but it is also a great way to provide connection for the strangers that are within are midst. In every community there are people who while they may attend every week, never seem to get involved or get to know anybody. Hospitality and eating together will help create stronger bonds between people who are on the fringes of a community and the community as a whole.
This is particularly true when we think of the traditional hospitality exchange. In that, the host provides food, lodging, etc., while the guest provides stories. Often the people who are on the edges of our church communities are there because they don’t get the opportunity to share their stories with the rest of the community. This is especially true if their stories don’t fit the narrative arc that the community has carved out for itself. Hospitality helps to overcome this by giving them a place to tell their story that is relatively comfortable and safe.
As churches we need to embrace this opportunity more and more.
Again, I welcome any comments. You can comment in the comment section below or send me a tweet @anglibubs. Don’t forget to check out the polls one the sidebar.