Hospitality in Higher Education

How have you come to know, understand, feel, and define hospitality?  Do you consider hospitality a necessary part of the fabric of Higher Education (e.g., community, discussion of ideas, relationships with the other) or not?  How have you experienced and/or extended hospitality on campus as individual or as part of a community of believers?  Looking forward to reading your thoughts/experiences.  Please share them with grace, truth, and charity.

What brings this topic to my mind at this time?  On Monday and Tuesday, I attended Hospitality, Critical Thinking and Truth: Living the Tensions, hosted by Messiah College, Grantham, PA.  At the conference, faculty, staff, and administrators from Christian colleges and universities wrestled with their shared goal of nurturing students into practices of gracious faith and intelligent reflection that fit[s] the needs of the 21st century.  The conversations reminded me not only of my education at Christian colleges, but also long conversations with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff regarding how to create/nurture hospitable places for followers of Christ and ‘the other’ on campus.

Three comments and I’ll turn the conversation over to you.

  • A few months ago I directed InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Mid-Atlantic Graduate Student Retreat.  We explored Hospitality through a manuscript study of the book of Ruth, watching/discussing The Visitor, playing the Customs and Cultures Game (developed by Lisa Espineli Chinn, director of InterVarsity’s International Student Ministry), and by just hanging with one-another for a weekend.  Click  here for more.  Below’s a definition of hospitality which I shared at the retreat:
  • What is true hospitality? It’s a way of living that models God’s love and welcome of us. We love and welcome others because God has loved and welcomed us. But we also embrace others because God loves and welcomes them as much as he does us. (I know we all say we believe this, but it’s a radical notion when we really take the time to ponder it.) True hospitality tries to see others with God’s eyes, and when we do that we realize just how loving and welcoming God is! — Quote from Hospitality From the Heart, by Erika Dekker.
  • In Called to Care: A Christian Worldview for Nursing (IVP, 2006), Judith Shelly and Arlene Miller define nursing as a ministry of compassionate care for the whole person, in response to God’s grace toward a sinful world, which aims to foster optimum health (shalom) and bring comfort in suffering and death for anyone in need (p.17-18).  And they share an amazing story regarding hospitality and rise of the nursing/hospitals.
  • Western medicine developed out of a Greek, and later Cartesian, body-mind dualism that viewed the body as object. The role of the nurse, however, grew out of a Christian understanding of the human person as created in the image of God and viewed the body as a living unity and the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ (I Cor 3:16). Medicine has traditionally focused on the scientific dimension of the human body, relegating the spiritual and psychosocial dimensions to religion and psychology. The uniqueness of nursing is its emphasis on caring for the whole person as embodied. It is defined as both an art and a science.  The impetus for this movement [i.e., nursing/hospitals] came when the first-century Christians began to teach that all believers were ministers who were to care for the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised (e.g., Mt 25:31-46; Heb 13:1-3; Jas 1:27). As the churches grew, they appointed deacons to care for the needy within the church. Eventually, more men and women were added to the roll of deacons, and their designated responsibilities grew to include caring for the sick. Phoebe, the deacon mentioned in Romans 16:1-2, is often considered the first visiting nurse. By the third century, organized groups of deaconesses were caring for the sick, insane and lepers in the community. In the fourth century the church began establishing hospitals. Most of these hospitals did not have a physician, they were staffed by nurses . . . ‘The age-old custom of hospitality . . . was practiced with religious fervor by the early Christians . . . Their houses were opened wide to every afflicted applicant and, not satisfied with receiving needy ones, the deacons, men and women alike, went out to search and bring them in’ (Lavinia Dock and Isabel Stewart, ‘A Short History of Nursing, From the Earliest Times to the Present Day,’ Putnam, 1931, p.51)” — pp.16-19.  To God be the glory!
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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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