Inclusion

Facebook reminded me of a post I wrote three years ago. I think this is still true.

In the past few weeks I have returned to thinking about radical inclusion and unconditional hospitality. Here is an excerpt from a reflection that I wrote on this theme several weeks ago:

I have spent a good deal of time contemplating the possibility of a new reality—that of “unconditional hospitality.” In part this flows out of my own deep commitment to hospitality as I see it exemplified in the reality of the Apparitions by Our Lady of Walsingham to Blessed Richeldis in 1061. It also flows from the deep Benedictine Monastic commitment to “receive every guest as Christ.” Finally, on the most basic and fundamental level, it is a desire to be like Our Lord who loved and welcomed everyone without question or hesitation—fully knowing that not all who loved him (or who opposed him) would be able to accept his actions. He certainly paid the price for his actions!

It seems to me that the basic problem is that we begin in the wrong place. Rather than thinking or worrying about community and how community will deal with or handle all this (and what price they will pay for their openness and inclusion in the wider communities in which they live, move and have their being), we ought to start with a more basic question: “What is God calling this person to be, and to do?” And that has nothing to do with gender, race or sexual orientation or gender identity. It flows from the heart-held conviction that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and that “all the Sacraments are for all the Baptized.”

The difficulty is the conflict between “ideals” and “the real world.” It is easy to speak of what “should be.” It is an entirely different matter to make it happen. Real community takes a lot of work and at times can be difficult—even painful! A metaphor which has helped me to understand that over the years also came from an old monk. “Being in a community is like picking up a bunch of pebbles along the road. If you put them in a sack and tie it to your belt, as you walk along they will bump together. Over time they will knock of all the rough edges and become smooth.” Of course that means that all the stones will have to loose their rough edges—even mine! That is never a pain-free process for any who are involved in it.

So perhaps the most helpful question then is “What might a community look like if it more fully expressed the actual membership of the Episcopal Church?” There would be women and men; young and old; rich and poor; people from numerous cultures and ethnic groups—speaking various languages; people who are heterosexual or homosexual or intersexual; people who are married, in a relationship, single or celibate; people who are struggling with all kinds of messy personal, professional and family issues; people who are lonely, confused and frightened; and people who are flawed and sometimes needy. And yet they would be united in an attempt to encourage, support, and love each other.

“O Blessed Lady of Walsingham, pray for us, that our hearts may be truly open to Welcome and Receive every Guest as your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

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