Resources for Communities: The Complexities of Hospitality

It’s been almost there years since we embarked on our grand experiment of intentional community and radical hospitality. The first glow of enthusiasm and novelty has long since worn off, and we are well into the work of grappling with the challenges of life together and the complexities of welcoming “the stranger” into that life.

Just to clarify, I’m not using the word hospitality in the way our current culture often uses it. I’m not talking about making our space and table layout “Martha Stewart-esque”, and inviting our close friends over to enjoy it. That is entertaining, not hospitality.

Christine Pohl, in what I consider the definitive book on Hospitlity, Making Room, makes it clear that the Biblical definition of hospitality is welcoming the stranger. The other. The one not like you.

That brings all manner of complexities. Pohl, in her companion book, “Living into Community – Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us, outlines some of them.

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1. Burnout – Sabbath keeping, rest and renewal. Knowing when to close the doors. Knowing when to give what Chris Heureutz in his book on community Unexpected Gifts, calls the gift of absence. Kirk and I took a much needed week away this month, road tripping to other communities, and it refreshed us. Our housemates take advantage of any opportunity to house sit, so that they can enjoy a living space all alone from time to time.

2. Safety – How do we know if the stranger is safe? Recently we had a young man coming by the house regularly asking for a bowl of cereal. Initially we let him in, but found out from some street wise friends that he was active in addiction to crack and had a reputation of violence, and his motives to accessing our home might be in question. So we stopped inviting him in. Third spaces, like the Prayer Truck, larger dinners like Spaghetti Tuesday, give more “public” places for us to get to know the stranger and to assess the risk.

3. Are We Being Used? – What about when people take advantage of our hospitality? When does Spaghetti stop being an inclusive “family” dinner and when does it morph into just another soup kitchen? What do we do when offering someone a couch for a couple night stretches into weeks? Clarifying expectations and setting boundaries early on become very helpful.

4. Limited Resources – What if there isn’t enough? Pohl contends that as we welcome strangers, we can anticipate God’s Presence and supply. But we cannot ignore our finiteness, and we cannot ignore our responsibilities to our family, and the vulnerable ones we have already welcomed. We are presently looking into creative ways to help fund Spaghetti Tuesday, because our commitment to it was depleting our personal resources, and we started having to eat rice and beans a lot.

5. What if we are met with ingratitude? – Is it enough just to serve for the sake of Christ, even if we are not appreciated by those around us?

6. If we welcome strangers into our community, couldn’t they threaten our way of life? – Not everyone who comes through our door will share our perspectives. That is not so much of an issue in brief acts of welcome, but becomes increasingly more challenging in long term relationships. What parts of our identity and commitments are central to who we are?

Pohl goes on to say that a community that does not struggle with these issues is a community that does not offer welcome…and is closed in on itself.

So the struggles are good, and the complexities indicate that we are indeed, practicing radical hospitality and being stretched.

24-7 Prayer for Waterdown

I took the early morning watch, so I could get the car back to my housemate (thanks Mary!). Up highway 6 and into the lovely village of Waterdown.

My friends at Grindstone church are hosting a week of 24-7 prayer for Waterdown, at their church office. It’s amazing how much cool prayer stuff you can squeeze into a small space!

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Look for the 24-7 Prayer Waterdown on Facebook or sign up for an hour here

Pastors Appointed to Die… Not on our Watch!

He looked like he should be driving a 40 year old Ford Pickup and his voice had a back-woodsy, Appalachian lilt.

And we hung on every word. We even recorded it, because we didn’t want to miss a thing.

We were meeting with Bob Jones. THE Bob Jones, one of the famous Kansas City Prophets. He was in town and our friend Dennis had fanangled a meeting for us. It was in the early days of GOHOP, likely our first year, and we were anxious to hear what God wanted to say to our fledgling ministry. For 40 minutes Bob prophesied over GOHOP. It was encouraging, revealing, and mostly challenging.

“There are pastors in this region that are appointed to die. Unless….you pray for them.”

Wow. Intense. Sobering.

So we’ve taken that mandate seriously over the last 12 years. Every Tuesday afternoon we have a prayer time set aside for praying for pastors and leaders. We also trained a team to do listening prayer/prophetic ministry and on Tuesdays at 3 we book leaders in and soak them in prayer for an hour.

Over the last couple weeks we have been praying for our dear friend Ace Clarke, as he had a major health crisis. He was in ICU, so we couldn’t get our hands on him, but now he is recuperating at home. Today our team went to visit him (yes, we do house calls!) and pray for him.

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If you’re reading this, stop for a moment and agree with us in prayer for Ace’s complete recovery, and for your pastor!

2 Days of 24 Hour Prayer at Hamilton Vietnamese Gospel Church

The night and day prayer bug is contageous!

Here’s a letter from Calvin Lam, who is on staff at the Hamilton Vietnamese Gospel Church www.gochurch.ca

This was our first time setting up a 24hr prayer space. The vision for a 24hr prayer room simply started with a thought of wanted to provide a space for people from my church to pray collectively. Then it evolved to: who else can we bless by creating this space? As preparations were under way, I honestly did not know what to expect, how many people would actually show up, or how God would work. 
It quickly became very apparent as we started the 24 hours that God was going to do some amazing things. People of all ages and various cultures started flooding in and crying out to God in that space and through the different stations. I felt this deep sense of community–that we were all in this together–even though I didn’t know everyone who walked in nor spoke the language that some of them spoke. None of that mattered–we were all united by the fact that we were broken and desperately needed God’s grace. Tears were flowing, people were sharing openly with one another, and those gathered were praying with each other. It was so encouraging and inspiring!
As various people shared about their experience during the 24hr prayer, it was absolutely clear that God had moved powerfully and beyond what anyone would have imagined or anticipated! The crazy thing is that we’re still seeing a ripple effect of what God did during those 24 hours.
I’m sure that this will happen again. Thanks for all your help and your prayers!

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48 Hours of Worship and Prayer on Holy Week

Our friends at MoveIn are doing it again! 48 hours of continual worship and prayer. This time over Holy Week.

Here is their invite

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Come and join us for 48 as we lift high the name of Jesus and appeal to our Saviour’s Name, character and work, in prayer for our city this Easter weekend! Jesus is worthy of all of our praise and adoration. He is glorious, lovely, merciful, just, holy and the Lord over all!

Feel free to extend this invitation to anyone who loves Jesus.

Thursday, April 17 at midnight to Saturday, April 19 at midnight

Suite 200 – 500 James St. N, Hamilton (The True City Office)

Daytime entrance (6am-10pm): Rear of building, last door on the right.
Nighttime entrance (10pm-6am):Front of building, middle door (look for sign). Follow buzzer instructions.

The worship and prayer focus will take us through the events leading up to the Resurrection. I can’t think of a better way to focus our affections on Him this weekend.

I’m leading worship 6 am on Saturday morning with my buddy Naomi. Come and join me!

A Day in the Life

What do urban monks, House of Prayer people do anyways? People have a hard time wrapping their heads around our vocation (most Catholics get it right away), so from time to time I find it helpful to post what a day looks like for me.

6 am. I’m in The Nook, a prayer space I created in Kirks and my room. We live in an intentional community with a bunch of other adults, so private space and time is precious and hard to come by. Kirk sleeps later than I, so early mornings are the best time for me to be alone with Jesus. I read, journal and pray.

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8 am. Heartwatch is our weekly Benedictine prayer time at the Vine, our prayer space. Brother David Peter leads us in singing the psalms, interspersed with times of silence and intercession for the city. Two young ladies from Sister Care join us after an early morning working with prostituted women on Barton and we pray together for the sisters they have grown to know and love. My heart is heavy. Today I’m feeling the weight of the loss of a friends grandchild, and the loss of one of our youth at the Living Rock. Too many deaths in our community these days. We cry it out, and trust that the ground is being watered by our prayers and tears, and that life will spring up.

9:30. On reconnaissance, prayer walking and checking out potential new office space for GOHOP. For the last several years, Hughson St Baptist has graciously donated us space, but renovations are coming, so I’m on the prowl for new digs.

10:30. Planning our Internship for the fall, with Peter Giokas, our Internship Director. Dreaming up wild plans for the future, expansion of our training arm. Over the last couple of years, The Lord has brought quite a few academics on our staff of urban/prayer missionaries. We have five folks with M.Divs, and one Doctor of Theology! I find that perplexing and amusing, cause all I have is half a degree of nothing. Jesus, how do you want us to share our gifts to serve the city and the large prayer movement? We are starting to get an inkling of what He is up to but shhhh, it’s a secret!

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12:00. Over to the Living Rock, a ministry to street involved youth in Hamilton. We’ve been partnering with them for years. Tough day today. One of the kids died last week. “I hate this part of our job,” one Rock volunteer shared, “we loose too damn many of them!” The room is full of candles and grieving staff and youth. We sit, pray, listen. Such a privilege to be a gentle witness in these times of loss, to be the loving presence of a people of prayer in their midst. Lots of good connections and conversations with youth happen.

2:00. Still at the Rock. The kids are gone, and we pull out our guitars and spend an hour in worship and intercession for marginalized youth and next generation leaders in our city. Throughout the day I had been checking Facebook for updates on a pastor in our city who was in ICU at a local hospital, and we pray for him as well.

3:30. Yes we do house calls! A friend is struggling with chronic health issues, so our team goes over to her house, anoints her with oil, and prays for her. She explains that she’s been sick on and off since her family moved into this house, and her kids too. “Why don’t we come back and bless and pray through the house?” One of our team member suggest. “Maybe there are some historical and residual spiritual issues at play here that we can deal with.” We make a plan to come back next week to do the house blessing/house cleaning.

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4:15. I’m feeling like a wrung out dishcloth. Such an emotionally and spiritually intense day! Time for baby therapy. We are trying to share life together more as a community, and among other things, that looks like sharing child care. So while our friends Andy and Gwen spring clean their newly purchased Community House, Hannah and I toddle off to the park with their baby and toddler, and introduce them to the wonderful world of slides. “Again! Again!” I can feel the stress slide away and my spirit quietens.

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6:00. One thing I love about intentional community is that I only have to cook one night a week! We come home to a lovely dinner on the table (thanks Mary!) and some wonderful dinner guests. A lovely evening chatting about life and ministry. We take time after dinner, around the table, to thank God for the day and to pray for the needs we are aware of.

“We live very simply,” I explain to our guests. “But it’s a good life, and very very rich!”

Yes it is.