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August 25, 2016, 12:00 AM

With Warmth

One of the many benefits of my theological education is the structured time to read, to think, to talk and to ultimately put into practice what I am belaboring.  Praxis, is a process by which a theory, lesson or a skill is enacted, practiced, embodied or realized.  During my time at Vanderbilt I became increasingly interested in the praxis of Christian hospitality. My studies ultimately lead me to frame Christian hospitality in this way:  The way a church views their property is both intrinsically and extrinsically linked to their practice of hospitality.  We might even be familiar with the scripture in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, For the body of God does not consist of one part, but many… we are to be God’s hands, feet, ears etcetera and working together we will live into a sense of cohesion for the living Christ.  We are the body of God, and together we can accomplish many things.  What if we took this a little further and began to conceptualize the church building as the body of God?  Perhaps this could lead to new and curious connections.  
 
A metaphor can be a powerful tool, they can push us into new and uncomfortable ways of viewing the everyday; maybe even a new spin on the old concepts that we have inherited. And so too, with inheritance comes great responsibility. 


So what is this Church building as the body of God business? I think of it as just one tool in the metaphor tool box to enhance the conversation of Christian hospitality.  For me, how we structure and interact with even the most mundane tasks of the church building use policies have an impact on how you view the stranger/ the outsider. You have heard that body language is important when meeting someone for the first time… think of this as our holy body language.


 This is one of my most important theological preoccupations!   To put it differently, the way Christians conceptualize and articulate physical space inevitably influences the way we treat our neighbor. 
 
And let me tell you, Christian Temple is one of the best functioning examples I have had the privilege of living into!  Community playground, baseball diamond, garden plots, basketball court, Montessori School, farmers market, Al-anon programs, camps etcetera etcetera the list goes on and on.


This is the greatest indication of vitality in community life, when we are able to use our physical property as a gift- to use our physical property as a manifestation of Gods love for Gods people.


Proximity to others / proximity to the stranger will continue to define Christian Temple. Our identities are constructed in our relationship to place and to ownership, we are boundary setting creatures and boundaries are tantamount to our health. I sometimes wonder what it would look like if we expanded our circle. Despite what we might fear the consequence. I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from poet William Stafford ...   “What you fear will not go away: it will take you into yourself and bless you and keep you.” 
 
We are called as a community to grow into newness both thoughtfully and with great care. 


Who is the stranger among us?


What does our body language say to our larger community?  

-Andy
 

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