Radical Hospitality and Good Manners

We are radically inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed.”

As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.

Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.

The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart does not discriminate and holds no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, relationship status, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within the Shepherd’s Heart is unwavering and unapologetic.

Dearest Folk,

The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart is a radically inclusive religious order and practices radical hospitality, meaning our doors are open to anyone. In fact, I have a saying that I took the doors off their hinges years ago.

As such, we’ve had a lot of different folks through our doorway over the years. Some came and went, some treated it as a revolving door – coming and going at their own leisure, some came and found a home and stayed, some are still here and some have passed into blessed memory. Everyone was welcomed the same, treated the same, and offered a home for as long as they wished. However, while our hospitality toward everyone has been the same regardless, the reaction to our hospitality over the years has varied from person to person, some wonderful and healthy, some manipulative and coercive. During our discernment process we hope to help encourage the former and heal the latter but sometimes we fail.

I recently had a great conversation with a dear friend of mine, also a religious in a different order, and we were speaking of radical hospitality and what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Her order also practices radical hospitality and she shared some of her experiences with me and I with her, finding great similarity in our respective journeys.

The analogy that she introduced in our conversation was that of hearth and home. I dare say, maybe hopefully so, one would never be invited to another’s home, and upon gaining entry, set about rearranging the furniture and or redecorating the place. Would they? Who would, upon being invited to the table to share a meal, criticize the host’s dinner plates or flatware? Would you? While we may or many not like the food being served, who would throw out the meal and offer to teach the host how to prepare a meal more to their liking? Who would criticize the cook for his or her menu selection, preparation style, or cooking attire? I would hope no one. Would you be critical of the gender of the host? Really?

Can you imagine doing any of this? I hope not.

Alas, this happens all too often in the Independent Sacramental Movement when we welcome people who seek to join us in ministry. When we open our doors and practice radical hospitality, all too often, people come in and then want to recreate the ministry in their own image, stylizing it to their own individual sensibilities, vision, practices, theological meanderings, and liturgical leanings. They often seek to come into our hearth and home and redecorate the place to suit themselves and to move the comfortable old furniture around to meet their needs or sense of proper decor, even setting some of our most treasured pieces out on the curb with a sign that says “free to haul off.”

Most of us wouldn’t dream of being welcomed into someone’s home and behaving this way. Why then do so many in the ISM think it’s okay to do this in jurisdictions or religious orders they join? I think it speaks to a much larger dysfunction and is part of the explanation of our fractured reality as a community.

Be that as it may, we cannot control others and how they respond to our hospitality, but at the same time, seeking to be inclusive, hospitable, and to provide sanctuary, does not mean that you become a door mat on which people tread and wipe their feet even though that seems to happen regularly.

I think mutual acceptance is the key. Now notice, I didn’t say mutual agreement. Sometimes agreement is a stretch and something to be working towards. Agreement can sometimes be an educational process. Acceptance however, is always an intentional choice. When we welcome new folks into our order we are saying, “we accept you, warts and all” and we’re asking them, “do you accept us?” A marriage is much the same way. I’m sure we all know someone who married another with the hope and or intent to change their partner. This is an ill-conceived practice that leads to madness, breakup, and despair.

Our Common Rule of Life in the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart suggests this when seeking to live in community and I think it a good practice to keep in mind:

VII A Respect Born of Love

“Do not ever think yourselves better than the rest of your companions who share the same faith.” -St. Cuthbert

“Do not be deceived by those who seem to seek perfection, yet do not keep the basic commandments of God. There are people who eat little, who live simply and who are celibate; yet they show no love and compassion toward their neighbors. Before seeking perfection a person must first learn to love others and to be generous towards them.” -St. Morgan

“See in each herb and small animal, every bird and beast, and in each man and woman, the eternal Word of God.” -St. Ninian

As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.

Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.

In humor, be kind. In griping, be truthful. In conversation, be patient. In gossip, be silent. Trust your sisters and brothers to make their own decisions; believe them when they speak of their own inner state. It is our calling to support and pastor each other, but never to manipulate or mold our free fellows into our own pattern.

For those who practice radical hospitality, keep heart and hold fast to your calling. You are offering a way of living on earth as it is in Heaven, and as such, an answer to our Lord’s Prayer. For you guests, remember to open your heart and do your best to respond with love, gratitude, and humility. Accept one another for who you are and let’s all celebrate our diversity in this wonderful creation God has given us.

Love,
Abbot Brian