Outrageous Hospitality


Outrageous Hospitality


I thought I knew, at least technically, what hospitality was before I came to Launde Abbey but a few months here has taught me that I have a great deal to learn.  Hospitality is not just about offering a welcome, good food, kindness and a lovely bedroom in which to stay the night.  Hospitality is first and foremost about an interior attitude, a generosity of spirit that has real intentionality about it.


At Launde Abbey we welcome different individuals and different groups almost daily.  Every guest is unique.  Every group has its own set of unique needs.  The differences inevitably set up tensions inside us but I believe these tensions are there for us to work with creatively and in doing so to begin to understand the outrageous hospitality that is the essence of the gospel.


What I noticed was happening inside me after I had lived here for a few months was that I was taking on ownership of Launde Abbey in an emotional way.  This was hardly surprising.  I live here, this is my home.  It is also a space made sacred by our visitors’ desires, needs, attitudes and actions.  It is a place that needs to be safeguarded and as such I felt it should be treated in such and such a way.  But this is where I realised I needed to be careful.  I was becoming possessive of the place and in my attitude I was in danger of becoming the church “police.”   I didn’t realise it but I was closing down inside myself to some of the people who come.  I was not being outrageously hospitable.


Some groups are Christian in a way that I recognise and feel at home with.  Others are travelling in a way that I don’t always understand.  Some people love silence.  Others long for communication.  Some people come to Launde avowedly  “non-Christian”, “non-spiritual,”  or “non-religious.”  They simply want to use the facilities which they appreciate usually very much.  Others simply don’t appear to want or value what I value.  This I recognised can hurt.  It can feel like a rejection of myself. 


But I am now recognising that the invitation Christ offers in his gospel is to look beyond the superficial understanding of hospitality which I spoke of in the opening paragraph.  In his life Jesus opened his arms wide to all those who didn’t play the religious game as those who ran the organisation thought they should.  He healed on the Sabbath.  He allowed his disciples to pick ears of corn on the Sabbath and eat them, to eat with unwashed hands.  Jesus touched lepers, ate with those who most certainly would have made us feel very uncomfortable had we lived then, and washed dirty sweaty feet.  He absolutely and consciously broke the accepted social rules of hospitality and in his teaching and behaviour went straight to the heart of the matter.  True hospitality lives in the place where we put ourselves out – out of our comfort zones and into a place of vulnerability.  True hospitality is putting myself in another person’s skin: seeing the world though their eyes.  True hospitality is in the heart.  It is the conscious and intentional opening of ourselves to the other and making the stranger the friend.