What is Radical Welcome?
I’ve been pondering a question this weekend: How do we move from invitation to radical welcome?
The question emerged on Saturday during the Midwest Mission Group Meeting in St. Catharine, KY, where we engaged in a discussion about Living Interculturally; and it’s been begging me for an answer since then.
I found that before I could answer that question, I needed to answer the obvious question: What is radical welcome?
I decided that radical welcome means asking people to be fully present and to share their total being – their culture, their experiences, their voices.
It means moving beyond inclusivity to a place where we genuinely want to engage in truly meaningful mutual relationships. It means valuing the culture, experiences, voice, and entire being of each individual in our community. It means ensuring that each individual’s presence, gifts, and perspectives will be valued and visible and will influence the community’s identity, structure, mission and ministries.
I hope you realize…
I hope you noticed that the engagement needs to be genuine; that the relationship building needs to be meaningful; that the person needs to be valued; and that the community is ever-evolving because it is welcoming new people with different perspectives and gifts.
Becoming a community of radical welcome requires that we go through a process of transformation that results in open hearts, open minds, and open arms. And transformation isn’t usually easy. It takes some work – reflection, facing the reality of who we are, rethinking tradition, re-imagining the future, etc.
Radical welcome requires a shift from inviting people to become a member of an existing institution to asking them to become a valued part of our community. In using that approach, we must understand and embrace the reality that when someone new accepts our offer, we become a new community.
We must learn and reconcile that radical welcome necessitates that we embrace and engage the full range of gifts and voices that exist in our community.
If we truly believe that diversity is a gift from God, it will show up in the way we welcome others. We need to ask ourselves: Are we asking people to become like us or are we saying to them that we love them as they are? Are we open to allowing new voices to help shape who we are, what we do and how we do it?
In order to move from invitation to radical welcome, we must be willing to stretch and bend, we must be willing to change our minds and hearts; we must be willing to connect with people who don’t look like us or think like us; and we must be willing to let people know that we serve and represent a God to whom all people are important, valued and loved.
Radical welcome can be unpredictable, messy, complicated, and even intimidating. But I submit that God is big enough to bring us through the process as better people who can see the beauty in the diversity of humanity. I believe that through radical welcome we can live out the commandment that we love one another.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34-35 MSG)