Hospitality runs through the veins of the Bible. Abraham and Sarah offer three strangers conversation and a meal and are blessed for it. The widow of Zaraphath cares for Elijah despite her poverty. Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus into his home. Hospitality is mandated in the laws of the Old Testament: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you” (Lev. 19:33-34). Affirming kindness to the least, Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”(Matt. 25:35).
Through the advent of Community Ministry and the subsequent decision to become an affirming church I believe God’s Spirit is moving us towards an inclusive hospitality. The Spirit is leading us to a more radical posture of openness.
Recently I read a chapter on branding and brand management. We tend to think of branding as the logos and images companies or organization use to sell themselves and their products. But branding is more; it is an expression of an organization’s core identity. And branding is both external, how those outside the organization perceive you and internal, how those inside the organization (staff, participants) consciously or unconsciously “pursue a shared identity or value system” (Dr. Fang Wan).
Bethel is on a journey of pursuing a shared identity of radical hospitality. As much as those in our neighbourhood and beyond have experienced our hospitality, we have also been changed by it. Over my time at Bethel, I feel we have opened our palms and held our church and our love more loosely; more willing to share what we have with those different from us. God’s Spirit is moving at Bethel, I see it with every act of hospitality and welcome!