“Defining Radical Welcome”

David Rust commenting on “Radical Welcome” by Stephanie Spellers – CHURCH PUBLISHING INC. Kindle Edition.

I am proposing the following format to get discussion started on this blog. I will summarize in a few sentences a section of the book “Radical Welcome” and then add a few questions or comments of my own. Then, after you have read the same section, you are invited to post your comments on this blog related to the section of the book being discussed. I’d appreciate it if we avoided stating an opinion without knowing the context of the comments from the book. I trust that as we consider the book, we all remain open to the to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to possibly lead us to new insights rather than simply restating what we believed on the topic prior to reading the book. And so……

In the section “Defining Radical Welcome” (p. 11-26), certain terms are defined:

“Radical welcome is a fundamental spiritual practice, one that combines the universal Christian ministry of welcome and hospitality with a clear awareness of power and patterns of inclusion and exclusion.”

“Think of the times you have been embraced, welcomed, received. We all know how good it is to come home like that, even if the territory is new. When someone […] thinks of us and our needs and hopes; when someone listens with full attention to our story and then offers their own, without seeking to master or co-opt; when someone sets aside their own preferences in order to joyfully, humbly defer to ours. When we are welcomed like this, we can experience the state of freedom and love I believe God wills for all people. It is a joy to receive this welcome. It is also a joy to offer this welcome, to say to another person: “May I know you better?” ”

“But there is more to radical welcome, as the word radical signifies. Radical […] amplifies the welcome, broadening and deepening and launching it to the next level. It also indicates a deep, fierce, urgent commitment to some core ideal. […] Radical is Jesus. Radical is getting down to the roots.”

“Who is ”the Other”? [The Other] is at once a full, complex, individual human being with a unique story and perspective and a member of a larger group that exists within the social hierarchy […]. Depending on who the dominant, empowered groups are in your parish, The Others are the ones you have the power to systemically marginalize and/ or oppress. They are […] the targets of oppression, while those who hold certain privileges and power are non-targets. […] Identifying The Other requires only the recognition that, within the social system in which we all function, some groups have been given social, economic and political power over other groups.”

David’s comments:

Well this sounds harsh… the Other is the target of oppression. Except, maybe there is some truth to this. If a street person comes in to our church begging for a sandwich, I may well feel I hold “power” of position over that person. I may not directly oppress the street person, but I know in my heart I am “better” than him/her.

REALLY?! Do I really think this? Or am I so transformed by the renewing of my mind, that I can see the scenario above and Radically Welcome that street person into our congregation? And how do I talk to this person? With my hand over my wallet? Or looking this person directly in the eye, and seeing the image of God in that person?

I am a long way from being Radically Welcoming!

Your thoughts?


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  1. Your question about street people rings very true. I do feel an imbalance of power – and also an obligation – when a “street person” knocks on the church door or approaches me inside the church.
    What I find very interesting is that I do not have that same sense of imbalance when I meet a “street person” in the church’s community garden. There we are on a level playing field. We talk, often I receive help, and never have I felt under pressure to give. What is it about the church building that creates imbalance, and what is it about the garden that creates equality?
    Another thought: At the workshop on homelessness on June 22, we learned that poverty is not so much lack of material things, but broken relationships – with God, self, and the world. I think this is true. And it shifts the balance again: We are all poor in some respects, rich in others. There is no more “Other”, we are the same. If I look at a person and see an “Other”, then perhaps I am the poor one whose perception of and relationship with that person is broken.


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