All Are Welcome
This picture was recently used in an article that appeared in The Londonist, and depicts a seemingly innocent looking set of new planters outside a property on Southampton Row, London. Before they were installed however, this was a popular spot for the homeless in the area to bed down, to take temporary shelter overnight on the edges of the streets. The article describes these planters as an example of ‘hostile architecture’ – a way of subtly creating an off-putting environment to dissuade undesirable behaviour, without attempting to address the roots of the problem itself.
This article reminded me of the subtle and often unconscious ways our own environments, whether churches or other places where we aim to practise hospitality, have been designed in ways that include barriers to welcome. Are there hoops that we expect others to jump through before they can experience our hospitality – physical barriers, social rules or behavioural requirements we need others to follow to make us feel comfortable? Are they really important or even necessary – and what would it mean to examine those barriers and take them down to let those in need in?
As we continue together this Lent, acting out social justice through radical hospitality, inclusive welcome and embracing diversity, are we aware of how we present ourselves, how we speak and behave and design our environments, and how they might appear to the strangers that we wish to treat as neighbours? Can we take a moment to imagine ourselves walking in the footsteps of those on the outside we would welcome in, and look at how we can represent God’s grace, peace and love to all? Can we remember Jesus words from Matthew:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”