When I was 20 years old I was part of a student small group at church, there was a lot of ridiculousness, some authentic conversation and true friendships forged. One week we completed ‘Spiritual Gift Inventories’, and Hospitality was one of my top rated gifts, but the sniggers suggested it was not highly rated by the rest of the group. Little did we know that we would still be friends over a decade later, the roots of fellowship grown in the soil of hospitality. Our friend had opened her home to us every week, sometimes cooking for us and always loving us in all our banter.
Hospitality is so much deeper and broader than a well-presented meal. When someone creates a space, physical or emotional, where we can show up as our selves, we sense that care in our souls. I often think of the tea and toast one friend fed me (and my kids) when I was feeling low. She apologised that there was only butter for the toast, but it did not matter. In that moment I felt seen, heard and cared for, and it was exactly what I needed.
I’ve recently been on the launch team for Leslie Verner’s new book ‘Invited’, and I’m a huge fan. As a fellow ‘goer who’s learning to stay’, I identified with her appreciation of hospitality received in other cultures. There’s the simplicity of being together, the gift of giving one another time and the slower pace which allows interruptions. Leslie weaves in passages from the bible to remind us of a generous God who demonstrates invitation. She challenges us to get out of our comfort zones and to tackle the lonely individualism of our times with friendship. Practical suggestions are also included for how to practise hospitality and build community in our relationships and neighbourhoods.
In describing her vision for her home Leslie could have taken these words right from my heart:
“But the word sanctuary came to mind: A haven for the lost, lonely, afraid, or alone. A place to breathe in and out and to invite others to do the same. A landing pad for goers to stay. Solid ground to offer our family and guests a little bit of security in a shaky world.”
Hospitality is not only for those who are ‘gifted’, as Leslie points out ‘hospitality is for everyone’, it is an unlikely force and a gift for our world. We can each create safe spaces of acceptance and belonging in our homes, families, groups, workplaces, communities. Whether it’s making toast, hosting in our home or offering a listening ear. We can each keep our eyes open for folks on the edges and invite them in to our lives. It’s not easy to live outside our comfort zones, but these small acts build community brick by brick.
“Hospitality is the marrow of community, the life source that produces the very cells our collective humanity needs to function”
This book is great if you want some encouragement to reach out and invite others in. I’ve been reminded to pay attention and nudged to rebuild a rhythm of invitation. If you want a taster of Leslie’s words, below are some of her blog pieces I’ve enjoyed recently. If you sign up on her website Scraping Raisins to receive her email updates then you’ll get the first chapter of Invited for free too.