Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spiritual Practice: Hospitality

Tonight my girlfriend Abbi and I hosted a friend for dinner in her apartment.  This was an intentional act of invitation to relationship. The preparations for this event included cleaning the apartment, buying ingredients, preparing a meal, setting the table and welcoming our guest.  I can’t say that this process was particularly holy for me, but as I reflect on it, all these practices were an intentional part of Shabbat that I learned from my Jewish friends in the Interfaith Summer Institute.

During the summer institute, we hosted dinners on Saturday evenings to celebrate the end of the Jewish Shabbat (or Sabbath).  The entire community came together to clean our house and our own bodies to create a holy space of celebration.  The meal we prepared was open to everyone, no matter their beliefs or identity, and we opened and closed the meal with sacred words and songs giving praise to God.

The meal that Abbi and I had with our neighbor created a holy space for our relationship.  We opened the meal with prayer followed by a conversation about the vegan chili and cornbread.  The safety of the dinner table allowed us to dig into our own personal narratives.  Why am I here in seminary?  What do I feel God calling me towards in ministry?  These stories led us to ask more challenging questions about how our stories could come together during our time here.  I could feel the Holy Spirit at work in our words, bringing us closer together and more emboldened in the work of Christian Community.  The Spiritual Leadership Institute puts meal time at the heart of developing community.

During the Interfaith Social Justice Dialogue meeting this week at UIC, we all contributed to develop a concept of what home means.  We started by thinking about the people who were a part of the experience of home for us.  Then someone added that home was a place where we can invite people in - to share our true selves.  This is a place where the collections and decorations all say something about you.  In the deepest understanding of this place we call home, we know we can be all of who we are, even if it doesn't make sense.

Having a home is a basic human need that provides space for rest, security and renewal.  Opening this sacred space to outsiders is a spiritual practice that takes risk and humility but often leads to new understanding of self and the other.

Life giving relationships are formed in the kitchen.  Is this a spiritual practice for you?  How does your religious community engage in hospitality?

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