Radical Hospitality: Creating a Safe Welcoming Space at Knox

What is Radical Hospitality?

  • Is it offering coffee before the worship service?
  • Offering a warm welcome, with a smile and eye contact, as people enter our doors?
  • Or, does it encompass all of these things but also involve something far deeper?

I believe it involves something deeper. In recent days we have been inundated with stories of bigotry and hatred in connection with a white supremist rally and march in Charlottesville, USA.

Brian McLaren, a author, speaker, activist and public theologian, offered some thoughts on the events in Charlottesville, but two of his comments are most compelling and thought provoking. He suggests all of us, especially people of faith, must proclaim that white supremacy and white privilege must be replaced with a community where all peoples, regardless of tribe, race, creeds, and nations, are welcome, free and safe to live in peace, mutual respect, and neighborliness.

His second comment has grave implications for we “white Christians”. He suggests we Christians have failed to acknowledge the degree to which white American [and as an adjunct, Canadian] Christianity has been a chaplaincy for white supremacy for centuries. As such we have failed to teach our white congregants to love their non-white neighbors as themselves, and in this way we have betrayed the gospel. His reference to a “chaplaincy for white supremacy “is based on the fact that Christianity as we currently experience it is rooted in the European colonization traditions and practices.”

Radical hospitality, by contrast, where the root word radical means that which is fundamental to or arising from the source, Christ, is deeply rooted in the practices of Christ.

The early church was established on ethnic, cultural, and societal diversity. Early members were Jew, Gentile, Roman, Greek, slave, non slave – all were welcome.

Is it time for us to reclaim this foundational perspective of Christianity?

I offer a definition of radical hospitality compiled from three books; radical hospitality is a wonderful, beautiful, sincere expression of a respect for the dignity and value of all peoples – those who are like us and those who are not like us – the marginalized, the vulnerable, the addicted, those of a different race, religion, culture, or sexual orientation.

Radical hospitality is not only the work of those who greet individuals entering our church but it is the work of each one of us as congregants. It is time for each of us to reclaim radical hospitality as part of our Christian practice.

Let us all work together to create a culture of radical hospitality here at Knox. Knox can be, and must be a safe welcoming space for all.

By Ellen Lang


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