Why Have We Disconnected Hospitality From Ecclesiology?

by Mark Votava

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After living with and learning from the Tacoma Catholic Workers for four years in my parish, I am coming to see that hospitality is one of the central messages of the gospel.  When I first learned of Christianity, it seemed hospitality was not even mentioned that much and it was all about believing the right things while attending church on Sundays.  It wasn’t really about being a part of a local community where you lived and loved people in everyday life.

So I began to question this whole idea of a church that is disconnected from local community.  I began to ask myself, “Is this what church is?”  It never set right with me and I became disillusioned with the whole thing.  So I have lived into my questions for a long time now.

What is church?  What is the gospel?  What is authentic?  How do we love others?

The Tacoma Catholic Worker has a thirty year history in the neighborhood where they care for those struggling with poverty by proving housing and living with them in community.  They have provided hospitality by valuing all people and seeing the similarities instead of differences.  They have taught me that we all eat, sleep, take showers, need relationships as well as have needs and feelings.  It makes me sad that so many people in our culture are rejected because they are poor and don’t fit the model for success in our world.

I see the Tacoma Catholic Worker as a collective of houses and people who have practiced stability in the parish for three decades.  Most people do not even think of church when they see the work that goes on there, but I do.  This is what I dream of when I think of church.  The church is a network of people who care for their neighborhood, live in community, in proximity, become neighbors in everyday life, show hospitality, practice justice, love their neighbors especially the poor, listen well and collaborate locally for the common good.

  •  Offer hospitality to one another

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling…” (1 Peter 4:9).  Hospitality has a lot to do with making space for others by being generous with our time.  Creating open spaces in our lives in order to connect with others and live relationally is important to the communal imagination.

  •  Showing hospitality just might be the holiest thing we could do

In fact, showing hospitality just might be the holiest thing we could do.  We need to do this willingly without grumbling about its demands.  The body of Christ needs to make space for others within our lives in the parish.

  •  Making space for others fosters love

Making space for others fosters love among us.  It values our uniqueness.  It builds trust and brings value.  Without spending time with others there is little relational connection between one another.

How can we learn to practice hospitality and become the church in everyday life together?