[This past weekend was the inaugural (?) “Rain and Snow” winter festival at SSU, and Carol and I had the privilege of offering hospitality to Pádraig Ó Tuama, receiving more hospitality than we gave, from his presence, his words, and his easy appreciation of our shared moments. Here is a passage that shows the thoughtfulness behind an approach that combines hospitality with truth-telling:]
In many circles of faith or spirituality, there is generous time given to the testimony – the telling of the story of conversion, or re-conversion, of enlightenment or change. It is a moving thing, to listen to the testimony. But testimony, if told or heard unwisely, can be a colonisation of a single experience into a universal requirement. Jesus fed me when I was hungry, we hear, and those who are hungry feel bereft. Jesus healed me when I was sick, say the healthy, and the burdened feel more burdened. Meditation cured me of depression, say some, and others make plans to hide the Prozac. Upon whom is the burden of words? I don’t know. I don’t think there is answer. I cannot dampen gladness because it will burden the unglad. But I cannot proclaim gladness as a promise that will only shackle the already bound. Faith shelters some, and it shadows others. It loosens some, and it binds others. Is this a judgment of the message or the messenger, the one praying or the prayer prayed? I don’t know.
Hello to what we do not know.
What I do know is that it can help to find the words to tell the truth of where you are now. If you can find the courage to name ‘here’ – especially in the place where you do not wish to be – it can help you be there. Instead of resenting another’s words of gladness or pain, it may be possible to hear it as simply another location. There are there and I am here. At another point, we will be in different locations, and everybody will pass by many locations in their life. The pain is only deepened when the location is resented or, even worse, unnamed.
Hello to here.
- Pádraig Ó Tuama, from In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World
I have learned that when plants put roots into the soil, their roots do not simply suck water and nutrients out. They share. They build community. They put out sugars, proteins and carbohydrates—“cakes and cookies”—
that gather and feed a communion of microfauna, whose activities hold and return nutrients that the plants themselves cannot make, at just the rate and amount that they require. The most important thing in good soil is
not nutrition, but biology. Or, to say the same thing: the richness known to plants is not an abundance of stuff, but an abundance of relationship.
– Marcus Peter Rempel, Life at the End of Us Vs. Them: Cross Culture Stories
[This weekend, with the help of a grant from Stronger Together, SSU has been hosting a symposium called “Sacred Encounters.” Indigenous and church leaders from the Maritimes gathered in St. Andrews and listened to each other. Baby steps were made along the way toward these two items from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action]:
Action 59: We call upon church parties to the Settlement Agreement to develop ongoing education strategies to ensure that their respective congregations learn about their church’s role in colonization, the history and legacy of residential schools, and why apologies to former residential school students, their families, and communities were necessary.
Action 60: We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.
You can read more about this ongoing project of SSU here.
[We’ve just benefited from the wisdom and experience of Wendy VanderWal-Gritter as she visited SSU. This is from her new ebook, which you can get from the link below]
If the goal of generous space is to nurture a positive relational experience of unity in the midst of difference, then we do well to test how the theology that undergirds the four core values of generous space serves to promote such unity. Humility calls us to live as incarnational people, willing to strip ourselves of privilege and status. Humility shapes us and prepares us to prefer the other over ourselves as we commit to listen deeply, suspending our desire to persuade and convince. Humility chooses to embrace God’s strategy of powerlessness to overcome systems of evil and injustice. Humility allows us to truly see the other….
Hospitality embraces the reality of difference with the anticipation of a richer and deeper sense of grace and truth as we travel together. When we
live in hospitable communities we ask, “Whose voices are missing?”
Mutuality challenges us to learn to divest and share power. It invites us to learn the grace of “power-with” instead of “power-over”….
We enlarge our vision of justice in the longing for all to flourish in the recognition that if, “I diminish you, I diminish myself.” Justice calls us to live out our interconnectedness. It invites us to cooperate with others to dismantle the barriers that prevent others from flourishing.
[Our faculty are currently exploring the challenges of interfaith dialogue in the context of an academic and Christian community. At our last faculty meeting, we affirmed the role of hospitality and vulnerability and the next morning I read this passage from Henri Nouwen:]
Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment.
: Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out