by Paula Friedmann
Radical hospitality… What is it? I’ve heard the term used more than once since coming to St. Mark’s, and I have to say I like the concept. Partly because the word “radical” appeals to the leftover ’60s rebel in me. Much more than that, though, it identifies the root nature of Jesus’ ministry, to extend God’s grace to all comers, and in a way that draws people into a personal space, a homelike place where the heart is safe and nurtured.
I think this is the culture of our congregation. Partly because of this, we are involved in a Faith and Family Homelessness Project. One piece of this is the opportunity to become a host site for Phoenix Housing Network, which provides temporary housing for homeless families with children.
On Sunday, Jan. 27, St. Mark’s members who attend the semi-annual congregational meeting will vote on whether to host Phoenix Housing families. As a host site, we would provide lodging, evening meals, evening hosts and overnight hosts, activities for children and light breakfasts for up to five families (no more than 25 individuals). Families stay for a week at a time at each site and usually are in the program for 6 weeks to 4 months. The program seeks to replicate productive family life as much as possible, so families do assigned chores and go to jobs, school or the Phoenix Housing day center during the day.
St. Mark’s already has volunteers experienced with Phoenix housing at other churches, and all report receiving far more than they give. There’s something about being face to face that brings the roots of our humanity home to us: we are all vulnerable, flawed and in need, as well as capable and motivated.
By welcoming those who, largely by circumstance, are in need, we embrace both the Christian ethic and the essence of humanity. It’s radical, not because it is difficult or unique or ground-breaking, but because it goes straight to the root of who we are.