Hospitality is a big word, both in scripture and church function. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the act, practice or quality of being hospitable”, with three definitions of hospitable: 1. entertaining guests in a friendly, generous manner 2. characterized by generosity and friendliness to guests 3. receptive or open, as to new ideas.
The scriptures have over 70 examples which describe how to extend hospitality to visitors, how hospitality can be refused and how it is the Lord’s command to extend hospitality. The very first Book of the Bible, Genesis, describes Abraham entertaining 3 visitors (Gen 18: 1-8). In the Second Book of Kings, Elisha instructs the king of Israel to feed the Aramean army and send them home, rather than kill them all. Instruction by Jesus describes the Christian hospitality he expects for his disciples in 3 of the 4 Gospels. Jesus’ instruction in Matthew is: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” (Mt 10:40). Similar quotes can be found in the Gospels of Luke (10:16) and John (13:20).
The parish Worship Commission is studying hospitality as it affects church function. The specific goal is to explore how St. Stephen’s addresses hospitality at weekend liturgies. It is a big topic, just like the word itself. St. Stephen’s has a strong history of forming community, and many who attend Mass here spend time visiting, either before or after Mass, with those they have gotten to know. Real bonds of friendship grow and blossom here on a regular basis. The Commission is exploring ways to reach out to those who may not have formed those kinds of relationships or friendships yet; or to encourage those who have been here a long time to become more aware of others they may not have met yet, or gotten to know.
In “The Joy of the Gospel”, Pope Francis states that “at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. (#177)” St. Stephen’s wishes to renew its commitment to a long standing principle of our Church by continuing to explore ways to build even more community than exists here already, while reaching out to those who are either traveling through or entering in as part of our future.
Written by Bernie Leach, Worship Director