Paul writes - This offers words which name something of my sense of the kind of church community I would like to belong to:
“When I reflect on communities in which in which I have experienced genuine welcome, most often it has been among those with a passion for living the gospel in a radical way without over-concern for doctrinal or cultural conformity...I found deep hospitality extended within [a] diverse group who shared a simple meal and prayer together…there I learned how much a sense of belonging grows from encountering hospitality rooted in listening hearts, which do not demand our immediate accommodation to the expectation of the group…Because of St. Benedict’s mandate, we did not immediately try to slot these visitors into some role. Rather, we listened long enough to discover gifts they might have to offer the community. We respected them for who they were. We strove to reveal Christ’s presence so that, through the community, visitors might see what they could become…
Jesus did not create an exclusive community of disciples. In his own ministry he repeatedly welcomes people who were disenfranchised – the poor, sick, those of different religious traditions, children and women who had no voice in the culture. All were invited to experience the healing embrace of God’s love ministered through Jesus…If we are to become agents of grace to others we must live in the house of love, keeping the door ever open and ready to share what we have to nurture one another…Our communities come alive as we become more and more people of prayer transformed by grace to be witnesses of resurrection life…This is the community of the Beloved, who embraces us and challenges us to be faithful to the gospel mandate to love one another by offering to all a seat at the table. We must never close ranks. Instead let us seek out ever-fresh ways to…gladly widen the circle of belonging, and in so doing delight the heart of the Creator.” –
Elizabeth J. Canham, A Circle of Belonging – Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Vol. XX, No. 3, May/June 2005, pp. 16-23.