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Radical Hospitality

On a warm Sunday evening in downtown Thorold, a young couple and their two girls walked down the street.  Suddenly, the smell of dinner caught their nose. They peeked inside the school door only to be welcomed and invited to stay for a meal. They met new people and ate their fill. To their surprise, this gathering had been organized by a Christian group called a “missional community.” That’s what our church plant, The Table, calls ourselves: a missional community.

Next week, the family came again. Over time, they formed friendships. They found belonging. They experienced love. They joined the community. Sometime later the mom said, “Ever since that day when we first walked into this community, our lives have been changed.”

The mom went on to describe feeling a renewed wholeness in her life.

This open door couldn’t have come at a better time.  The mom’s credit card had been declined at the corner store as they tried to buy dinner.  The dad’s pockets were empty of change. As they walked back to their apartment, their hearts felt like their financial state: empty and insufficient. 

They were three months behind on rent, so on the way back to their apartment, they ducked under their superintendent’s window. It was as they slipped through the thickness of the evening, that they saw in the distance silhouettes entering the open door of an inner-city school. 

The mom went on to describe feeling a renewed wholeness in her life. She also explained the peace her family was experiencing. In time, the family came to know the story of Jesus. They gave their lives to him, responding to his restorative love. Jesus took away the insufficient feelings in their hearts and replaced them with peace, just as Jesus promised in the Bible: “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). Today, there are still months when they cannot pay rent, but inwardly, they found relief. Outwardly, they found help with life and the love and care of Jesus in community.

As we eat together, we desire to intentionally create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere where relationships and peace can flourish.

One of the ways the church can mutually offer this inward and outward peace is through the practice of hospitality. As our missional community has continued to grow, we share meals at all four of our gatherings throughout downtown Thorold, including in community centers, schools, parks, and homes, with lots of space for creativity.

Over a meal, we discuss the joys and challenges of life. We find ways to support each other. We pray for each other and read the story of God in the Bible together. The table of hospitality is where people, experiences, and the gospel collide. As we eat together, we desire to intentionally create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere where relationships and peace can flourish. As relationships are nurtured at the table of hospitality, we desire to see people’s lives and our community transformed:

  • People who were once isolated find connection and belonging at the table.
  • Families and neighbors who were divided are given the opportunity to experience relational peace as they share a meal together.
  • Those who cannot always afford a meal are blessed by the gift of the shared meal.
  • New friendships are cultivated.
  • People hear stories of faith and transformation.

Sharing the table of radical hospitality is part of the DNA of the family of God. And it’s meant to be shared with our neighbors. At the table, we’re called to include the stranger, the widow, and the orphan; the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. As Jesus said, “...When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:13–14).

Photo provided by the author.

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