Jess Mason

Jess Mason, M.A., M.Div. is a licensed minister, spiritual director, and director of the DeeperHope Institute for Women's Spiritual Life. She currently pastors the Wednesday Women's Community at Free Christian Church in Andover, MA. She lives in Haverhill, MA with her husband, Elliott.

The Heart of Hospitality Part 2, Your Part Matters

Photo courtesy of aopsan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo courtesy of aopsan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to Part 2 of my three-part post on the Heart of Hospitality—those states-of-heart we need before we can welcome others into our presence and community.

In Part 1 I claimed that we each need a solid sense of home in God’s love ourselves before we can truly be hospitable to others. The good news is, that home in God’s love is readily available to all of us who would receive it.

Such a soul home is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. Receiving God’s love for ourselves doesn’t inherently make us look outward to others. (We can be a selfish lot. Sigh.)

The Christian must also have come to the basic conviction that her hospitality matters. She’s not so individualistic that she’s blind to others’ human need for warmth and welcome. Nor is she so insecure that she doubts her warm welcome would be of value to anyone. We each have a part to play, in the measure of our personality’s capacity.

Picture a room full of people, and just for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s a group of strangers or barely-acquaintances. In that setting, some of us could prayerfully consider which one person the Holy Spirit is prompting us to walk up to and offer a sincere, warm greeting. Others can easily swish around and make twenty-five people feel welcome and loved in a matter of minutes, even if we’ve never met any of them.

If we happen to be in the spotlight, we can sincerely welcome the whole group, and infuse our spotlight role with an attitude of welcome. The setting might modify our welcoming role. But everyone’s hospitality matters in every setting.

You and I can’t always predict where or to whom our overtures in hospitality will matter most. Sometimes those who display the least appreciation for our warmth are the ones most starved for it.

To what extent do you think Christ’s hospitality can flow through you at this point in your life? To what extent do you feel it matters? What is the Holy Spirit stirring in your heart about it now?

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor in turn can the head say to the foot, ‘I do not need you.’ – 1 Corinthians 12:21 

What is ‘Community’ to You?

Two Friends Sitting At A Table Together

When we talk about feeling connected to a community, what exactly are we talking about?

Joseph Myers’ enlightening The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community, and Small Groups asserts that for a satisfying sense of belonging, we actually need people in our lives at each of four levels of community. We need: 1. public connections of belonging in a wider community (like your mailman or an interest-based membership), 2. social relationships (acquaintances who know you in what he calls “snapshots”), 3. personal relationships (good friends and family), and 4.  intimate relationships (the few who truly know your dark sides, your deepest longings, etc.).

Our unique personalities seem to settle on distinct “happy levels” of participation in each realm of community. For example, I feel the need for personal relationships ideally more than once a week, but my desire to participate in social connections is more like once a month. My need for social connection is automatically (more than) filled by my life circumstances. But the opportunity to see a good friend as often as a couple times a week is all but impossible. Though my life is full of friendly relationships, I still sometimes feel a longing for a particular kind of community. Others may weight their longings for community differently.

According to Myers, one kind of community won’t adequately substitute for another in our desire for a sense of belonging. Neither can we force one kind of relationship to become another kind if it really isn’t meant to. Relationships can often morph from one type to another. But trying to become a close friend to my mailman would make him uncomfortable, and sometimes “socializing” with my husband just feels a bit artificial and silly. So I’d need to look elsewhere for my social and personal relationship longings to be filled.

I also observe a fifth kind of community that is important to me: a working partnership towards a worthy goal. To me that kind of relationship isn’t necessarily covered by any of Myers’ categories, though there certainly may be overlap. Much of my work is, by its nature, solitary, though as an introvert I can tolerate that solitude well. But if I have no sense of working as a part of something larger, no colleagues about which to discuss hopes and goals and projects, I personally feel something of a sense of belonging is missing. I’m immensely grateful for the working relationships I now have, as I’m mindful of my sadness in vocational isolation.

What kinds of community/belonging are well represented at this point in your life? If you’re longing for more, what type of connection feels too sparse right now (even if it doesn’t fit Myers’ categories)? What is God saying to you in this?

Have your priorities in types of community changed since a previous time in your life?  If so, what’s changed for you?

If you’re part of a church community, which types of connection does the larger church and/or your small group currently fill for you?

The Heart of Hospitality, Part 1

A shot of two college students having a discussion on campus

 

Christian community anywhere begins with hospitality.

By that I don’t mean impressive home decor and lavish food. I mean, Christ has broken down the dividing wall between insiders and outsiders, and Christians live out that gospel by welcoming one another into their presence, and into their community.

But is everyone capable of being genuinely hospitable to everyone else? I believe the answer is, not necessarily. 

In addition to cultural tides to overcome, there seem to be emotional prerequisites to hospitality, without which pretense is inevitable. In this and the next two posts, I’ll discuss some of these core emotional requirements.

The root of all hospitality seems to be a personal sense of home in God’s love. We can’t welcome others to a home we don’t have. A hospitable person is confident that God also welcomes her into His presence gladly, every time.

Furthermore, that home in God’s love must be portable. In a socially challenging situation, we must be able to access our sense of belonging in God in the moment when we need it. Only out of that ready place of rest can we offer warmth to those who may be different, unlovely, or unable to reciprocate.

Do you agree? To what extent do you think it’s possible to show genuine hospitality to others without confidence in God’s love for you?

Are there any holes or gaps in your confidence in God’s love for you?

What do you think are barriers to genuine hospitality in New England culture?

“Receive one another, then, as Christ received you.” – Romans 4:7.