The Religious Value of Hospitality
When I was in seminary, I got to attend an inter-seminary retreat. Catholic priests in training, Muslim scholars in training, Rabbinical students, Protestant seminarians, and one Unitarian Universalist. It was great!
The theme we were immersed in was “hospitality.” I was wide-eyed, learning the importance of the topic across the religions, especially Islam. To friends, neighbors, even strangers, the Muslim is called to provide an abundance of food and drink. A Jewish scholar explained that in Judaism, it’s not just a politeness, it’s an obligation one is expected to fulfill, a gift of lovingkindness.
I’ve heard it said that church membership is when one removes the bib, and puts on the apron. We are all hosts, at Live Oak. We make a point of having greeters at the doors, so that guests are warmly welcomed, and helped through the initial awkward feelings most of us experience when going to a new place.
When the worship service ends, that is when all of the members of the church become “greeters.” We introduce ourselves to guests, escort them into the Fellowship Hall for coffee and conversation, and get the reward of getting to know them. That gift of hospitality – who is it really receiving the gift? I suspect in the best cases, it is both host and guest.