Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Transformational Hospitality

Here's the post I started last week, but didn't finish until now, due to my son's concussion -

A week ago I attended a conference on the Sacred Art of Hospitality based on the book, Hospitality~the Sacred Art: Discovering the Hidden Spiritual Power of Invitation and Welcome by The Rev. Nanette Sawyer (purchase at: It really gave us the basis for all of our relationships as well as mission and ministry. Nanette pushes us to see hospitality not in terms of setting a pretty table or hosting dinner parties, although it could very well include these. Hospitality is the quality of one's inner spirit and how this creates an openness and welcome in all our relationships which can lead to the transformation of ourself and others.

Transformative spiritual hospitality is rooted in three qualities: receptivity, reverence and generosity that reflect a basic pattern of movement: in-with-out. We can engage in each of these stages with methods of awareness, acceptance and action. A chart helped us:
Inner Spirit: Receptivity Reverence Generosity
Movement: In With Out
Method: Awareness Acceptance Action

Receptivity which has to do with preparing our inner state to be able to invite others in to our lives, hearts and sometimes, our homes. We explored this spiritual approach in being not only receptive to God’s welcome of us, but also our willingness to be hospitable to ourselves. Like other spiritual disciplines, true hospitality begins with our relationship with God and our ability to care for and love ourselves, so that we might be open to others and able to care for them out of our own spiritual center. The method for this stage is awareness—awareness of the sacred in and around us, awareness of ourselves, awareness of our needs and a willingness for self-care.

Reverence is the state of being with others—honoring and welcoming them. Reverence involves acceptance of others as they are, but it also goes deeper than that. It moves us to see and honor the presence of God in each created being—humans as well as the creation. Being with others in a hospitable and reverent way, means giving up trying to control them, letting go of specific outcomes and not judging them. It also means letting go of the dualism of comparison—that we are better/worse than others or they are better/worse than us. Instead we identify with them, in our common humanity, in the presence of God that exists within each one of us. Rev. Sawyer challenges us to practice this with our families on a daily basis, with neighbors, with strangers and even with enemies who may wish us harm.

Finally, hospitality involves generosity—a flowing out in physical, emotional and spiritual care of others. This involves action of some kind—whether it is regularly inviting people into your home, caring for a sick friend, making intentional conversation, making eye contact and smiling to strangers, practicing non-retaliation in conflict, or making green choices to be hospitable to creation--a crucial part of hospitality is outward action motivated by compassion and openness to new experience. In class we were able to practice spiritual meditations that moved us toward this deeper hospitality.

A great blessing of this conference was that it embodied the topic by its structure! The conference was held on a cruise ship out of Miami that made 3 stops in the Bahamas. It created an environment where could engage in hospitality at all levels-- "re-creation" with God through rest and renewal which deepened our hospitality to God and ourselves; opportunities to learn new people, places and cultures (a friend and I went to a Botanical Garden in Freeport that included a history lesson and a prayer labyrinth in a healing garden) enabling us to grow in our reverence for others; and finally the opportunity to reach outward in generosity--strangers on the ship and with one another as we built a new community of support as ecumenical women clergy and Christian educators. This redefined for me, an understanding of hospitality as the core of our inner spiritual life, our relationships and our outward mission.

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