The church loves to talk about welcome. From evangelical mega churches that put coffee shops in the foyer to progressive experiments with the format of ancient liturgies, people from a variety of contexts are thinking about how the Christian tradition might best embody welcome. If we’re being honest, though, sometimes self-preservation is at the heart of the effort. How can we preserve the community we love by drawing more people into it? Yet the idea of welcome in the biblical texts envisions something different: an invitation to authentic relationship that Jesus offered freely and without partiality to the woman at the well, Nicodemus the Pharisee, a bunch of rag-tag fishermen, and so many others. And Jesus does it by going out; he doesn’t wait in the Temple for people to come to him, but goes as far as non-Jewish Samaria to find them.
Real welcome challenges us to put something on the line and go to the margins. During my own fellowship year, I can remember standing in the hallway of Bunker Hill Community College, frantically handing out flyers about Life Together as a stream of students from practically every country in the world flowed by me coming out of class. When I joined Life Together out of divinity school, I did not imagine myself soliciting people on behalf of anything. And how did I find myself at Bunker Hill, a secular, multicultural community college, when I had signed on to work at Trinity Church in Boston? Yet I learned quickly at Life Together that extending welcome meant taking risks and pushing past what I thought was possible-- for our world and for myself-- to find the face of God in unexpected places.
Many Life Together fellows also find welcome by pushing outward and taking risks, whether at their sites, within their intentional communities, or in the broader cohort. Micah Fellow Kevin Neil writes eloquently this month about welcome and the belovedness he has found at his host site working with people experiencing homelessness. Alumna Mia Benjamin shares how welcoming the words and stories of others’ suffering through contemplative practice invites us into hear the Spirit speaking.
In the past year we’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of welcome at Life Together. How do we become a community that fully extends welcome to all people? What will that require us to do, and what will that require us to change or give up? Who is at the center of our organizational life, and who is at the margins? Many of you have been part of those conversations and are helping us discern new paths forward, and we’re grateful for that support. If you would like to be part of that discernment, regardless of your past or present connection to Life Together, I would love to talk to you as well. Please feel free to email me, and be looking for more news as we move through the spring about where these conversations are leading us!
As we begin another cycle of inviting new fellows into our community for the 2018-2019 program year, may we truly take risks to embody the community that the Justice Way-- the Jesus Way-- calls us to be.