“God's Creation gives us a model for making and sharing homes with people, but the reality of God's Trinitarian life suggests that Christian hospitality goes farther than that. We are not meant simply to invite people into our homes, but also to invite them into our lives.” –Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath
I’ve been thinking a great deal about hospitality lately. I’ve been thinking about what it would take for us to make the kind of space in our life together in order to nurture meaningful and lasting connection for newer members and newcomers to our church community.
Grace is truly a welcoming congregation. Almost everybody agrees on this. When folks visit our campus, whether for school business, for a community event, or for worship, they are met with love and kindness – consistently greeted with warmth, generously assisted in finding their way around, kindly thanked for being with us and always invited back. We welcome visitors unconditionally, affirm difference and diversity, and make space for the new experiences and perspectives that others bring. I am so grateful that this value of welcoming was already wholeheartedly embraced before I arrived at Grace early last year.
It is one thing, however, to feel welcomed among people, and quite another to become connected with them.
To be sure, many folks who are more recent arrivals with me to this congregation have found their way toward a next level of participating or belonging – exploring expressions of new ministry, bringing inspired ideas from former church communities, pledging to financially support the life of Grace in a new year, committing to new areas of service. I am so grateful for this positive energetic.
This is a good start, but we will have to do more work at becoming the kind of people who can continually make space for more and more people to connect and transform us with who they are and what they bring.
I believe that God is calling us, in 2019, to discover new ways of fostering deeper relationship with all who find their way to us and desire to know Grace as home. We are being called into a deep hospitality that goes beyond welcome to be with us, to invitation for becoming part of us. This will involve some changes to our facilities, it will mean new programming that intentionally brings us together, and it will mean – as all change does – sunsetting some old ways of doing things to make space for more inclusive and expansive modes.
God has a beautiful dream for this world, for this city, and for this neighborhood around us in Southwest Houston. And God has included Grace Episcopal Church in making that dream come true.
I’ll look forward to sharing more about this vision for inclusive and expansive hospitality with you at our Annual Meeting on January 27. I hope that everyone who calls Grace home, or who wants to call Grace home, will be with us on that day.
The Reverend Scott Painter, Vicar