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Home > Home Articles > Features > Hospitality


An address by Brother Sam SSF from Hilfield Friary
At the Autumn Forum of Somerset Churches Together, 2nd February 2012

Brother Sam was a guest in this ecumenical gathering, and exemplified the dual meaning of the word ‘hospes’: being both guest and host, and including us all with his beautiful smile.  He posed the question: How well do we welcome the stranger? He noted incidents recorded in the life of Jesus, who chose to be hosted by marginalised people, like the quisling Zacchaeus, and the scandalous Mary of Magdala.  He touched untouchables, making himself an outsider in the process.

He spoke of situations which challenge church communities with particular examples: a woman from Zimbabwe seeking asylum in the UK, who had to live through a long drawn out process; an ex-offender priest who on release from prison needs to be where children will not be threatened by him, and where he himself can also be safe.

The parable of God's feast, where the guests were dredged up from unlikely places, was to demonstrate God's abundance and to teach us to make space for strangers, such as asylum seekers and priest offenders.  Nearer to our weekly experience in church, the welcome we can give from our abundance to a visitor is crucial to all our lives. Our brother suggested that the Sikh Temple is a model of hospitality, providing food for friend and stranger alike. An invitation to lunch after worship is something Sikhs do as a matter of course; their kitchen is built into their temple.  He, Brother Sam, had a recent experience of being a stranger in a church, and not receiving such a welcome whereas he had been welcomed with great generosity in many poorer countries – “Poverty is a wonderful host!”

St Francis taught that "weeds" should have a space.  We need to be prepared to give up control, surrender our private territory, and pull down our protective walls.  All humanity would be richer for this. He continued his theme through questions put to him, and gave the meeting much inspiration to think about. He was thanked very much for his contribution.