by Danielle Moushey
Not long ago while studying Acts 2, the teens at the St. Louis Gateway Citadel, Mo., Corps were discussing in Sunday school how the Church began. It was a great way for us to talk about what this would look like today. One of our teens, Emily Huitt, expressed it best: “It means we would have each other’s backs.”
If we should be looking out for each other as if we were family, the next question becomes, “How do we do that?” Earlier this year, our corps made hospitality its number one priority for mission advancement based on the STEPs (Strategic Tool to Engage Potential) process. Having this as a corps-wide goal has been unifying for us as members.
“We want to become a covenanted community of hospitality,” said Major William DeJesus, St. Louis Gateway Citadel corps officer.
As we’ve been working toward this goal, it has completely changed the way we’ve been treating everyone we interact with, including each other.
The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defines hospitality as the “friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.” Is this what God wants from His Church? In the New Testament, the word hospitality is used several times, but translated from the Greek philoxenos or philoxenia, it’s defined as “the act of loving strangers as if they were family.”
Our corps formed a hospitality committee comprised of members with different ages, backgrounds and experiences. It has been a good lens for examining, evaluating and improving existing programs, policies and events corps-wide.
Our congregation is learning to see ourselves in each other. We’ve all been called to expand our comfort zones and embrace each other and visitors. By searching to relate to everyone we encounter, we recognize our shared humanity. We see each other as God sees us, right where we are, with all our imperfections.
“Family and hospitality go hand-in-hand for us,” said Alicia Mingo, a soldier at our corps who lives out this love daily—and others feel it. “In our home there are no guests; you are family when you cross the threshold. We come together to worship God and fellowship as believers. We should be welcoming to the stranger and the friend alike.”
You may be thinking, “People at my corps or church are too different to be really united. It’s a nice thought, but it’s just not realistic.” Unity doesn’t mean we become the same or even that we want to be the same. It means having each other’s backs; it means working together instead of against each other and combining our gifts and talents to build God’s Kingdom.
It’s like a colorful quilt or mosaic with each person representing a piece of material or tile. It’s through our differences that something beautiful can be created, but only after we’re connected. That’s when the beauty can be revealed and the bigger picture seen.