A “Sacrament” of Hospitality

the Good Samaritan

By Dr. Teresa Angle-Young

Many years ago, when I was in graduate school at Emory, I took a class called “Systematic Theology.” In the final exam, we were surprised to be asked this question:  If you were to propose a new sacrament for the church, what would it be and why?

I knew, in a second, what my answer would be.  Hospitality!

If I were to add a sacrament to the church doctrine, it would be the sacrament of hospitality.

There is a long tradition of hospitality in the Bible, beginning in Genesis and weaving throughout scripture.  In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah are blessed with a child after showing generous hospitality to three divine strangers.  Lot, too entertains these divine travelers and in turn, he and his family were offered the chance to flee from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And there are many other examples in the Old Testament where strangers in the land are treated with the same hospitality with which one would treat a beloved friend or relative.

In the New Testament, one of the most moving examples of hospitality is Joseph, the man who is engaged to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Joseph took a divine stranger – Jesus – into his home and raised him as his son.  That was an act of radical hospitality.

But I believe our best example of radical hospitality is Jesus.  Jesus taught about hospitality in his parables and practiced hospitality through his actions.  He even turned water into wine as his first miracle for a wedding host to be able to show hospitality to his guests. We have the parable of the prodigal son.  A man had two sons.  One of them decided to ask for his inheritance early and left the family farm to blow his money on the indulgences of the world.  The other son stayed behind and was a dutiful son, helping the father on the farm and being the model child.  When the prodigal son returned to the farm, expecting to be treated poorly by his family, the father threw a huge party welcoming him home. Jesus taught in the story that it didn’t matter whether or not the son deserved the father’s generosity and hospitality, rather that it was simply the right and loving thing to do to provide the hospitality anyway. In doing so, Jesus revealed a characteristic of God.

This thread of hospitality – irrespective of the status or standing of the guest or stranger – is woven throughout scripture.  So, what is hospitality?

Is hospitality making sure there are chocolates on the pillow and extra toothpaste in the bathroom when you have a guest?  Well, yes and no.  Throughout scripture we see examples of hospitality that include taking care of the physical needs of the guest, such as food and shelter, so it seems we are not to ignore those aspects of care, but particularly with Jesus, hospitality becomes something more, something beyond simple care.  Hospitality becomes healing.  Hospitality becomes life-giving.  Hospitality restores people to wholeness in a myriad of ways, sometimes physically, sometimes socially, sometimes emotionally, sometimes psychologically, and always spiritually.  Hospitality becomes a spiritual tool, and once it becomes a habit, once it is integrated into who we are, it transforms.

In scripture, the Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia (fil-ah-zeen-ee-a), which derives from philo, a word you might recognize from the name Philadelphia, which we know as the City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love, and xenia, which means stranger.  So, hospitality in the Bible means, “love of stranger.”  It does not just mean “niceness to stranger.”  It means genuine, selfless, extravagant, full out love of stranger.  When we look back at the Abraham and Sarah story, I think it’s important to note that when the three strangers showed up at Abraham’s tent, Abraham did not begrudgingly go out and find the skinniest calf to serve nor did he tell Sarah to pull out last year’s grain and fry up a cake.  He called for the finest of what he had and prepared a feast.  And so we are called, as the church, God’s representatives in the world, to offer hospitality with enthusiasm, offering up the best of what we have to those around us, not what we have leftover.

But hospitality is more than just sharing food and shelter with others.  In his book “Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life” mystic, monk, and distinguished professor at Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale, Henri Nouwen, said that there are three critical movements in the Christian’s life.  The first involves moving from loneliness to solitude, and the focus is on us as we learn to dwell comfortably in solitude with Christ.  The second is the development of spiritual maturity to move from hostility to hospitality, and of course, the focus in on our relationships with others as we strive to become more like Christ.  That leads to the third spiritual movement, our movement toward God.  Without the first two movements, we cannot make the third move.  So Nouwen argues we must find peace within ourselves, make peace with others and move toward this idea of radical and selfless hospitality before we can truly experience a move toward God. The practice of hospitality brings us closer to God.

And it’s important to exercise this hospitality with whoever comes into our lives.  In other words, just as Abraham and Sarah offered hospitality to the three strangers without quizzing them about their worth and position, and just as Jesus offered love and hospitality to those in the community others would deem as unworthy, we are called to offer our hospitality to those who are before us, whoever they may be.

So how do we do that?  I think we must do what the author of our scripture passage today tells us to do: Love each other as if your life depended on it. Hospitality means opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable, making space for someone that you might not ordinarily allow into your life.  Hospitality means looking past those things that separate us from each other, like dress, and speech, and possessions, and race, politics, and social standing, and seeing others the way Christ sees them, as beloved members of the family of God. Adopting an attitude of hospitality means putting aside your agenda and schedule to listen to the other person, to pay attention to their needs, and to respond to them in a genuine way.

Hospitality is more than a beautiful table or a comfortable bed or a hot cup of soup or a contribution to the food pantry.  Hospitality is making space in your life and in your heart for another person, whether a stranger, a spouse, a child, or a friend, and giving them your time and your attention without resentment – cheerfully, as 1st Peter reminds us.  Hospitality is making the table bigger to accommodate the stranger, and letting yourself be open to the idea that you might, like Abraham and Joseph, be entertaining a divine guest.  Hospitality is the realization in the very depths of your soul that everything we have is a gift from God, and that by sharing what we have, whether meager or abundant, is to be an instrument of God’s grace and mercy in the world.

 

Supporting Women in Ministry

Stephanie-York-Arnold

 

This page was created to support all clergy. All Clergy! Not just male clergy!

We can’t believe any of you are surprised that we support women in ministry–at all levels of ministry.  This has been our stance from the beginning of our organization. We have frequently posted about our support for clergywomen. Our coaching team is made up of male and female clergy. And we are all part of churches and denominations that affirm and celebrate female clergy.

Yesterday, we posted a beautiful and courageous article about clergywomen by a clergywoman. In response to that post, many hurtful and hostile comments were made about women in ministry.

For much of the day, the CcNet team members who monitor this page were away from a computer, and we were unable to respond until now.

This page was created to challenge, support and equip those seeking to do ministry.  It was not, is not, and will not become a forum for those seeking to challenge the right of a women to do ministry. It is intended to be a safe place for all clergy who are seeking to be transformational leaders.   

In the future, comments that are unsupportive of women in ministry will be deleted, and those making the comments will be banned from this page.

We understand that some of you come from traditions that do not believe as we do.  We respect your right to differ.  If you have differing opinions, you are free to share those opinions elsewhere, but not on this page.  If you feel that CcNet is not a page you can support, we understand.  We hope you will stay, but if you choose to leave, the peace of Christ be with you!

If you wish to learn more about the Biblical and theological justification for our support of clergywomen, we encourage you to take the time to read this link from Dr. Craig Keener, professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200102/082_paul.cfm?fbclid=IwAR21l5dUSujAQlRNFL7Wj9kDyWGcMhIITRHJaLqkCjV0onsSwHVzZ4t2XcU

If you wish to know more about the abuse clergywomen often experience, check out this video: https://www.episcopalcafe.com/a-short-film-on-the-experiences-of-clergywomen-hertruth-women-in-ministry-break-their-silence/

Or look at the link we shared yesterday: https://leannefriesen.com/2019/02/13/when-youre-a-woman-pastor-and-youre-over-it-already/?fbclid=IwAR3BPT9ye4C7r7TiWvaXwe8nzTtTeGKS9aZP5c6umTd11HOKQYad1p8quzQ

We cannot monitor this page 24/7, but if posts are made that are abusive or unsupportive, we will notice, and we will take the appropriate action.

Thank you!

 

 

Pastor-To-Pastor: Let Me Pray For You

Travel Bear

Guest Post by Rev. John Carosiello, a pastor who wants to pray for you!

Deuteronomy 31:6

Being a Pastor can be tough…REALLY tough.

Picture it! The church seems to be thriving; the staff is unified with a shared mission and vision; things seem to be going great! Then, your phone rings. The call is from a border-line irate church member letting you know that the worship music was way too loud this past Sunday, and they are tired of having to deal with it, so they are going to go elsewhere. This is not the first time you’ve received a call like this, and you know that it will not be the last. The irony is that you had another member come up to you after service and complain that the worship was too quiet.  Yep, being a pastor can be tough!

Most church members have little to no knowledge about what it’s like to be a pastor, a pastor’s spouse, or a pastor’s kid – instead, they usually romanticize the private life of a pastor. 

The average church member may imagine you go home on Sunday, sit around the dinner table, say grace, and then discuss deep theological truths as a family over lunch. What they do not know is that your youngest son was just diagnosed with autism while your oldest son is failing most of his classes in Middle School. They do not know that your spouse just had to go on anti-depressants again because of how alone and hopeless they have been feeling lately. They do not see you sitting two blocks away from the church in your car hours before the service on a Sunday morning, having it out with God, wondering if it’s all even worth it.

Is it any wonder that most pastors quit the ministry within their first five years?[1] Should it surprise us to see that the suicide rate is so high among clergy?[2]

Fortunately, we are not alone, at least we don’t have to be. There are pastors all over the world who are experiencing the same things we are, who are feeling the same things we are, who are struggling with the same things we are, so why don’t we reach out? Why do we choose to be alone together instead of together?

Ministry tends to teach us that vulnerability is a dangerous thing, but what if we opened up to other pastors who are just as much in need of encouragement as we are ourselves? Need a pastor friend to love you and pray for your family? Please e-mail me: JohnC@citg.org  I would like to encourage you, not judge you…lift you up, not tear you down…empathize with you and maybe even share some of my struggles.

Being a pastor can be incredibly lonely, and none of us were made to go it alone, and the good news is: We are Not Alone! I look forward to hearing from you!

 

[1] Dave Earley and Ben Gutiérrez, Ministry Is (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2014).

[2]  Shauna H. Springer, “Suicide Risk Among Pastors and Clergy Members,” Psychology Today, 2018, , accessed February 06, 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/free-range-psychology/201808/suicide-risk-among-pastors-and-clergy-members.


	

Our Mission

My Post-4

The mission of the Clergy Coaching Network Facebook page:

To articulate a vision for congregations that are faithful in Evangelism, Hospitality, Discipleship, Inclusiveness, Social Justice, Worship, Community, Congregational Care, Leadership Development, and Service.

To inspire, challenge and equip clergy for transformational leadership in a Post-Christian Age.  We will do this by sharing relevant articles, quotes, memes and occasionally a bit of humor about human nature, theology and congregational life.

To invite you to take advantage of our Coaching Services.  We hope that many of those who discover our page will seek to employ one of our well-trained clergy coaches to assist them in their leadership and ministry.

Our posts come from a variety of perspectives and seek to address the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing clergy, lay leaders, congregations and the communities in which they minister.  Some of our posts will confirm what you already think. At other times we hope they will challenge assumptions and invite the exploration of new possibilities.  If you are uncomfortable with posts coming from a variety of points of view (conservative, moderate and progressive), this may not be the page for you.

If you like our page and choose to comment on a post, we ask you to familiarize yourself with our mission and follow these Comment Guidelines:

As people of faith, we are called to a higher standard than the vitriol that often shows up in some Facebook comments.

On this site, we know there will be robust and passionate engagements about some of our posts, and with and among those who have differing views. Please, no personal attacks. Comment on ideas, not people.

Comments that we find to be trolling, abusive, pejorative, demeaning, off-topic, racist, sexist, hate-speech, labeling, “denomination bashing,” or harassing will be removed and the person commenting may be banned. Comments made via pseudonym will always be deleted. Profanity is unacceptable! (We have our profanity filter set to “strong,” so that it catches most profanity.  However, folks keep inventing new ways to get past these filters.)

Please stay on topic, and keep the conversation thread focused on the article, the meme or the subject presented. Comments that seek to “hijack” the conversation for political purposes or to present a topic not referred to in the post or meme will be deleted. 

Advertisements or solicitations, posted as comments, will be deleted.

Of course, whenever these guidelines are ignored, we reserve the right to block persons from commenting on this page.

Remember, civil discussion encourages multiple perspectives and a positive commenting environment.

The Challenge of Making Disciples: Four Findings

Diverse Business Group

Dr. Heather Heinzman Lear is the director of evangelism at Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

In her research for her doctor of ministry degree, she focused her research to determine what congregational practices are necessary to help churches fulfil the denominational mission statement: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

She worked with six congregations of various ages, sizes, and geographic locations to determine if there are consistent trends across United Methodist churches in the United States.

She writes:

The lack of a holistic understanding and practice of evangelism was evidenced in the following four findings:

The overwhelming majority of the participants were unable to articulate why Jesus is important in their lives and how offering Christ to another person would benefit their life.

The majority of congregations did not create intentional space for people to practice sharing their faith or foster an environment of authenticity where members felt they could be vulnerable and express struggles. 

The majority of participants could not differentiate good works done by the church from those of a civic organization or non-Christian. 

The majority of participants indicated that their congregations were not known in their community and that mission opportunities were developed based on member preferences instead of community needs.

Wow!

What are your thoughts about her findings? How do they match your experience, your context or your denomination if it is different from the UMC?

Heather concludes: “We can no longer assume that people who attend church on Sunday have been formed in the faith without creating intentional faith practices and education for all ages and stages of faith. Five of the six churches in my study did not create intentional space for people to share their faith and ask deep, theological questions. They also did not encourage or actively seek to place people in small groups for discipleship and accountability. Finally, congregations need help understanding that their purpose in making disciples is for the transformation of the world.”

What does this suggest to you about what is needed in your personal ministry? What does this suggest to you about what is needed to help you equip others in the ministry of evangelism? What steps can you take this week to begin addressing these four significant findings?

Source: Making Disciples, Obstacles and Opportunities in Urban Congregations. You can find the article here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/irom.12123

Men of Character

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By Chris Holmes, guest contributor

In the transition from boyhood to manhood, something deep within our nature shifts -it is gripping, definitely tied to our sexuality, and feels innately wild. This enigmatic hormonal assertiveness wells up and finds healthy expression in intense passion and sexual desire. This drive is divinely created and should be celebrated.

Unrestrained predatory behavior is not organic to manhood or inherent in male character. Abuse, violence, unwanted aggression and sexual assault are grotesque distortions of the healthy male drive and cannot be blamed on hormones or “boys just being boys”. This abhorrent conduct is more often rooted in a distorted sense of male privilege or a misogynist view of women, neither of which are of divine creation.

We men clearly have work to do in reinforcing healthy expressions of manhood and repelling social norms that justify or support abusive male behavior. We must unequivocally state that the line between healthy sexual expression and predatory abuse is not only a clear line, but a wide one, and is not crossed by men of character, no matter how powerful they are or how upstanding they may otherwise seem.

10 Rules for Addressing Panhandlers

quotes-10-Rules-for-Address

Dr. Pete Gathje, Memphis Theological Seminary 

“If a panhandler asks me for money, what should I do?”

This question is asked almost every time I give a talk about homelessness, or when people find out I help run Manna House, a place of hospitality for people on the streets. Here is my advice based upon my knowledge of homelessness, and talking with panhandlers.

1. Give or don’t give. It is really your choice. But always look the person in the eye who is asking, and say “Hi.” If you are not going to give then add, “Sorry I can’t help today.” If you are going to give add, “Hope this helps.” Either way, always treat the person with respect. They are human beings, made in the image of God.

2. If you do give to a panhandler, remember it is a gift, and the person is free to do with it whatever he or she wants to do. The person is not homeless because of some personal moral failure, so do not get into making moral evaluations and judgments.

3. If you do not give that is OK. Panhandlers know most people will not give. One said to me, “It is like cold calling in sales. I expect to get turned down most of the time, and it doesn’t bother me. Just treat me with respect.” (See Rule #1 above).

4. If you feel unsafe or the person panhandling is being aggressive or threatening, leave the area and don’t give. As one panhandler said to me, “There are jerks in every line of life. Don’t reward them.”

5. Sometimes give more than you are being asked for. So, if someone asks for a dollar, give them five! Both you and the panhandler can share in the joy of that unexpected gift.

6. Set a limit or a boundary to your giving. Mine is $5 per day. Once I have given out my $5 then I respond to anyone who asks, “I’ve given out already what I give each day.” I consider this my “street tax.”

7. There are people who panhandler who are not homeless. They are simply poor. It is near impossible to tell the difference between a homeless panhandler and one who is not. So, again, give if you want, or do not give if you do not want to, but treat everyone with respect. (See Rule #1 above).

8. Feeling awkward or uncomfortable when you see a panhandler or are asked for money is OK. It means you have a conscience and some compassion.

9. If you have time, and are so inclined, volunteer with an organization that works with people on the streets offering food, or shelter, or medical care etc. You will get to know some really interesting people, and they will get to know you. And you might see them on the streets from time to time, and you can wave and yell “Hi!”

10. If you really want to help people who are homeless, then advocate for housing for all homeless people and free shelters. Support organizations in your area that practice a “housing first” approach to homelessness. Also resist all efforts to dehumanize, disrespect, and criminalize people who are on the streets with laws like “No panhandling” or myths like “Panhandlers make a lot of money panhandling.” (See Rule #1 above).

(This article originally appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, 9/7/18)