Last Sunday I shared a small group ministry session on the theme of Hope as a spiritual practice. Here’s another session in the same series. This time, Hospitality.
Being a Welcoming Presence
Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break through the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveler. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes close-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.
— Henri J. M. Nouwen in Ministry and Spirituality
A Teaching Scene from Chocolat, directed by Lasse Hallstrom
The church plays a central role in the community life of the small town in this movie fable. It stands for tradition, for the way things have always been, and especially during the season of Lent when this story takes place, for self-restraint and sacrifice. At least that’s the way the town’s mayor sees it, and he’s making sure the priest says as much from the pulpit. Just five weeks on the job, Pere Henri is young and inexperienced, so he preaches sermons the mayor has edited about the dangers of temptation, the threat to morality posed by outsiders, and even the evils of chocolate.
Until Easter morning. By then Pere Henri has seen enough to know that the life of this community is enhanced, not threatened, by diversity. He tells his surprised parishioners that he doesn’t want to talk about Jesus’ divinity this Easter. He is more interested in his humanity and what we can learn from his life on earth:
“We can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. We measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”
That’s as fine a summary of the Gospel message as we’ve heard in a long time.
Questions: Tell a story about an encounter with another religion — a conversation with a believer, a visit to a sacred site, attendance at a ritual, or use of a practice — and what you learned from the experience.
Check-out/Likes and Wishes
Hospitality is essential to spiritual practice. It reminds you that you are part of a greater whole . . . Putting others first puts you in the midst of life without the illusion of being the center of life.
— Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro in Minyan
To Practice This Thought: Be a welcoming presence by humbling yourself.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Hospitality.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.