Two weeks ago, a few days before leaving to visit my son in Boston for a week, I reflected on the hospitable nature of our newly refurbished facilities at St. Timothy’s. I stand by everything I wrote about welcoming physical spaces being part of the church’s mission of hospitality. Whether it is a newcomer joining us for worship for the first time, or 12 step groups meeting in our facility on a weekly basis, or hosting a recent Goodwill industries training series for people with disabilities, or providing meeting space for any number of community groups, our refurbished spaces make Christ’s welcoming presence real.
All this is true—but it doesn’t go far enough. As my wife and I were driving to Boston, I realized that I missed the opportunity to make an important connection between the hospitality of our physical spaces and the larger neighborhood. The goal of the Church's mission of hospitality isn’t just a more hospitable church community, including its physical spaces. The church's mission of hospitality is first and foremost about making our neighborhood, city, country and world a place as hospitable as the church. The goal of St. Timothy’s isn’t just to be a community that welcomes everybody—no exceptions, but it is to be a community that works to breakdown any societal barriers that make our world an unwelcoming place.
Systemic racism is an extreme example of a barrier to a more hospitable world. The Church’s mission is to breakdown racial barriers. Lack of affordable healthcare is a barrier to a more hospitable neighborhood. The Church’s mission is to advocate for social policies that make it possible for all people to have affordable healthcare. Social policies that criminalize drug addiction and lock people up in prison are inhospitable. Such laws should be resisted by the church in favor of social policies that focus on healing and reintegrating people into the community. Immigration policies should go to great lengths to welcome strangers rather than establish burdensome barriers to keep people from finding a home in our country.
The church’s mission is to work with all people of good will to help make the neighborhood a place that enables everyone to flourish. That would be a church that is truly hospitable.