by David Stricklin, Moderator of the Presbytery of Arkansas
I keep hearing about “radical hospitality.” It’s not necessarily a new idea, but it’s popping up in all kinds of places, in libraries and social-service organizations as well as places of worship. You’d expect to find the absolute acceptance and life-changing welcome embedded in radical hospitality at a church, at least you’d hope to expect that! And I want to encourage you to embody this stance and look for ways to welcome people-absolutely, in life-changing ways-especially pointed toward serving the most vulnerable people in our society today: the impoverished, the homeless, a lot of LGBTQ folks, immigrants in peril, people with dementia problems and their care-givers, and people who are just sick, tired, and discouraged.
One way to do that is to be watching and listening for invitations that will be coming along this year and next from three groups of people in the Presbytery of Arkansas. These are the folks who were asked to lead three areas of priority at the Presbytery meeting last February at the University of the Ozarks. Those three areas focus on building strong congregations, being more intentional about connecting everybody with resources they need and with each other, and developing and supporting ministries with youth, young adults, and college students. You’ve seen things about these three priorities in the Banner and elsewhere, and I won’t go into all the details, but in each of these areas you can find an opportunity to practice radical hospitality.
Building strong congregations can happen when folks increase mission efforts and step up educational opportunities, both of which can focus on the marginalized and forgotten. Making connections can involve sharing something you’ve done with other churches to give them a little encouragement to get it a try, especially-again-with folks in the greatest need of welcome. Engaging with young people can often lead you into a pathway of finding vulnerability. Not all young folks, by any stretch, are in that category, but the ones who are need a welcoming presence in their lives as completely as anybody I can think of.
Everybody has a lot going on in their congregations. Adding one more thing may take some doing. But I believe that offering a welcoming presence to people who really need it can give you a lift. Everybody needs it, but for some people need it so desperately. Be listening and watching for ways to practice radical hospitality in the context of the three priorities we adopted in February.
Thank you. And may God bless you and your good work on behalf of the Risen Christ.