[When Iâ€™m] the
s t ranger at the
Ta ble a ux Spring 2015
from the dean Ta b le a ux
plural [ta-bloh]: A picturesque group of persons around a common table. For most of my life, I’ve seen churches play the role of host. We attended church events such as Wednesday dinners, worship services and Bible studies and always encouraged our members to invite “guests.” We carried in us the idea that we had something to offer “outsiders.” By “them” participating in our programs, we were partnering in God’s dream for humankind. This logic wasn’t flawed; it was just incomplete. Our goal was to offer the “other” what we thought “they” needed, but we never thought about what the “outsider” could teach us about God. At McAfee, we believe true hospitality is sharing space and learning alongside those whom culture deems to be the “outsiders.” We believe God holds “them” just as closely as God holds “us.” If we are open to it, we can even learn something from “them.” Janus (from which we get “Janu-ary,” the name of the pivotal month of the year) was the ancient Roman god of doorways, gateways and transitions. Janus was therefore depicted as having two faces, one looking in and one looking out. Perhaps we can learn from these ancients. There are times when, like Janus, a redemptive community needs to be able to look both ways at once. McAfee’s posture of humility and grace equips ministers to see where and how God is working within the church and “out-and-about.” With this in mind, we understand and appreciate the subtlety needed for churches to play the roles of both “host” and “guest.” At times, we bring something of value to share with “others,” while at other times the reverse is true. In this ninth issue of Tableaux, you will read stories and opinion pieces from alumni and faculty on just how we are embracing the gifts and graces of both “guest” and “host.”
R. Alan Culpepper
contents 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 31
“Hospitality: An essential spiritual discipline” by Loyd Allen Guesting Daniel Elliott and Kelsey Stillwell “Reversing hospitality and receiving God” by Mike Gregg “I’m the stranger at the door” by Deonie Rose-Marie Duncan “On being guests in a strange new world” by Rob Nash Hosting “How welcoming the stranger changed me” by Karen Massey Lesley-Ann Hix Phil Smith Meg Olive FBC Athens and Our Daily Bread Class Notes
On the cover: A welcome sign at the front door of QC Family Tree, an intentional Christian community in Charlotte, NC. Tableaux staff: J. Barrett Owen, editor in chief Lesley-Ann Hix, designer Rachel Freeny, writer firstname.lastname@example.org tableauxonline.wordpress.com
6 new s! n o i t a z i l a i spec
School of Theology Including specializations in: Christian Spirituality Justice and Peacemaking Leadership and Ministry Mission and Community Transformation Pastoral Care/Chaplaincy Preaching Scripture and the Life of the Church Theology/Christian Worship
theology.mercer.edu email@example.com 678-547-6474
Mercer Preaching Consultation
! a g o o n a t t a Ch gan hattanoo
6|C 4 r e b to Oc
Dr. Tom Long
Bandy Professor of Preaching Candler School of Theology, Emory University Sponsored by: McAfee School of Theology, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, CBF-GA, TN-CBF, AL-CBF
An essential spiritual discipline By Dr. Loyd Allen professor of church history and spiritual formation
When Libby and I brought our daughter Clare home for the first time, we discovered a sign hung across our carport saying, “WELCOME HOME, CLARE!” Inside, we found gifts from our friends carefully chosen to meet an infant’s needs. Hospitality is welcoming others to our place in the world and taking care of their needs. As Marjorie Thompson, to whom I owe much of my understanding of hospitality, defines it in her book, Soul Feast: Hospitality means receiving the other, from the heart, into my own dwelling place. It entails providing for the need, comfort and delight of the other with all the openness, freedom, tenderness and joy that love itself embodies. (122) Hospitality is next to godliness. It is rooted in God who welcomed each of us into creation and continually supplies our needs. “Life is gift,” reads a McAfee T-shirt quoting John Claypool. It is a gift of divine hospitality. Hospitality and a Christian life are inseparable. Through our hospitality, God appears, we find purpose and the world is served. Without it, we are self-condemned. The difference between the blessed sheep and the damned goats in Matt 25:31-46 is hospitality. By hospitality, Sarah and Abraham received Laughter, and Lot’s family got safe passage. Through lack of hospitality, Sodom and Gomorrah found themselves in a firestorm (Gen 18-19). To practice hospitality is to accept God and life and our unity with all humanity and the world. We do well to obey The Rule of St. Benedict, chap. 53.1: “All guests who present themselves are to be treated as Christ.” Offering hospitality to those closest to us, as our community welcomed Clare, is certainly good. But hospitality offered to the stranger is better, for God, like the king in Shakespeare’s Henry V, wanders among us in the guise of the stranger. Forgive us, laments the African American spiritual, for “we didn’t know who you was.” “When did we see you?” ask the bewildered, both cursed and blessed, in the Matthew 25 parable. The stranger in need is the hidden Christ among us. Hospitality is our faithful response. It is a response based solely on the innate worth of the guest. As Alan Jones points out in his book, Soul Making, Christian hospitality receives others for their own sake as “lively images of God or as his possible messengers” (14). Any other motive is unchristian. No hidden agendas are allowed. Hospitality as rule-keeping self-righteousness may not be worthless, but it is heartless. Hospitality as leverage is worse. Friends invited my wife and me to dinner at their home. They used the meal as an opportunity to try to sell us kitchenware. Hospitality as a sales pitch, even a spiritual one, is bogus. Hospitality is not some religious Venus flytrap baited
with sweet talk and charity to catch unbelievers. Christian hospitality witnesses to Christ by word and deed, but it does not manipulate. Christians offer hospitality out of respect for the other’s intrinsic self-worth, not out of a need to mold the stranger into our image. Positive action is required. The Southerner’s “make yourselves at home,” or the Latino’s “mi casa es tu casa” sets the framework. If the other is to feel “at home” away from home, the host must provide at a minimum the guest’s most basic material needs. These needs include food, drink and shelter, as well as medical care, physical security and economic justice if needed. No action, no hospitality. Good hosts strive to meet their guests’ emotional, psychological and spiritual needs as well. This posture requires refraining from limiting guests’ freedom to be themselves in the host’s world. If a host’s welcome depends on a guest’s political, social or religious values, hospitality evaporates. As Parker Palmer writes in The Company of Strangers, “Hospitality means letting the stranger remain a stranger . . . .” (68).
Friendship is no prerequisite for hospitality. Loving openness to oddness and otherness is. The kind of hospitality described here transforms the host as it serves, comforts and honors the guest. Christians looking for Christ in others become more open and receptive to relationship with both God and stranger. M. Scott Peck’s prologue to The Different Drum, retells “The Rabbi’s Gift,” a fable in which a rabbi tells the abbot of a failing monastery that God has revealed to him that one of the monks is the messiah. The monks begin to treat each other as if any one of them might be Christ. Soon respect, love and mutual service transform the community. Let us practice hospitality that we might see God, love everyone and thus be formed in the image of Christ.
“Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Luke 10:8-9 [NRSV]
Kelsey Stillwell and Daniel Elliott, ‘15
Art and Justice in Bali by Rachel Freeny
Moving halfway around the world is a risky undertaking. Everything looks and sounds and tastes different. That first step off the plane can be overwhelming or, as in Kelsey Stillwell and Daniel Elliott’s case, welcoming. “[Bali] was home the minute we got off the plane,” Stillwell said. “People took care of us and made us feel welcome. It was an immediate family.” Stillwell and Elliott, third year students on the Global Christianity track, spent the fall in Bali serving with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Student.GO program. They worked with Tina and Jonathan Bailey, who began an artist
community on the Indonesian island. Students from around the world come to Bali to study traditional music, art and dance forms as part of a Balinese scholarship program. Occasionally, a student desires to further their studies of a particular art form but does not have the means to do so. The artist community began as a response to this need and offers classes, taught by locals, free of charge. As artists-in-residence, Stillwell and Elliott assisted with these classes. They learned how to play in a gamelan, a traditional Balinese percussion ensemble. “Gamelon is very intricate and takes a long time for a foreign ear to understand,” Stillwell said. Learning gamelon took hours of practice throughout the week and allowed Stillwell and Elliott to bond with their fellow students and group members. Students came for the music lessons but stayed for the community. They soon started coming together for meals, movie nights and monthly parties at the Baileys’ home. “[The Baileys] created a setting where people can come together and get to know each other outside of an art setting,” Elliott said. This welcoming atmosphere is important for students who, like Stillwell and Elliott, are thousands of miles away from home. “Students that were new started to get homesick
Photos courtesy of Kelsey Stillwell
and need a home base, and Tina and Jonathan kind of became that for them,” Stillwell said. “[For many students], it turns into a family that they will always come back to.” The art community became a home away from home for Stillwell and Elliott, but it wasn’t the only place they felt like family. “People treated us like they’d known us a long time,” Elliott said. “I never once felt like a guest, even though I was.” One afternoon, Elliott went to the home of a woman from his church for music practice. “She said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here, my house is your house,’” Elliott said. “If you need something to drink, go get it from the refrigerator.” Hospitality is ingrained in the Balinese culture, as reflected in their neighborhood systems, banjars. “A banjar is like a family,” Elliott said. “Everyone does everything for everyone.” Though the Balinese are welcoming, Stillwell and Elliott said it took time and effort to show people they were more than tourists. “Bali is a big tourist area, so people are used to [foreigners],” Stillwell said. Stillwell said people they passed on the
street would ask where they were going, assuming they were going surfing, a popular tourist activity. They were shocked when they learned the truth. “We’d say ‘we’re going to gamelon practice,’” Stillwell said. “[People] really opened up and were even more hospitable knowing that we were there to learn their culture rather than just to surf for a week and leave.” Taking the time to immerse themselves in and learn about local music led to an incredible opportunity to bridge both cultural and religious gaps. “Our gamelon group got asked to play in a Hindu ceremony at a Hindu temple which was in the home village of our teacher,” Stillwell said. “They were so excited for us to be there even though we probably played terribly.” “They treated us like real concert artists,” Elliott said. Even in a Hindu temple, the welcome they received reminded them of God’s love for all people. Their time among the Balinese people and the art community changed them. “When you think about the book of Acts and the community that they talk about there where everyone gave everything to everybody, I think that’s the kind of community we experienced,” Elliott said. “People took care of each other, and it’s just a natural thing for them even if they aren’t Christians.” Elliott and Stillwell’s time in Bali allowed them to see God in new ways and different places. “I saw God in culture and it wasn’t western and it wasn’t white western American. It was artistic, Balinese culture. And Christ was in it,” Stillwell said. “Jesus was dancing in it.”
Photo courtesy of Alice Horner
&receiving By Dr. Michael L. Gregg (DMin ‘14) associate pastor and minister of education Northside Drive Baptist Church
I found God at Starbucks.
This is odd since I usually experience God in church, worshipping among my Christian community. It was strange to experience God’s presence in a group of people not connected to the Church. I found God dwelling among the community of baristas and regular patrons who shared coffee, conversation and friendship with me for four years while studying for my Doctor of Ministry degree. I was a stranger and they welcomed me. I received their hospitality and listened to their stories, and somewhere in the midst of it all, I experienced the presence of God dwelling among them. I received their care and was able to participate more fully where the presence of God was at work within this community of baristas and patrons. I experienced mutual care in this community because I first received their care for me. I received their hospitality, and in doing so, experienced God’s presence outside of the Church. As Alan Roxburgh, missiologist and author claims, “God is on the move.”1 God is not confined to the church building. The reign of God extends farther than our churches and worshipping communities and is among groups of people where Christians might not even be present. I did not bring God with me into Starbucks. God was already present in a community of baristas and patrons who found spirituality in their connections to each other rather than the institutional Church. If God is present among communities outside
of the Church, the ways for Christians to experience the presence of God expand beyond congregational walls. We must discover ways to participate in outside communities and name where God is at work. By receiving hospitality, can we, as church-going Christians, see God moving in new ways among communities outside the Church? I believe we will not only experience God’s presence, but also learn to accept the gifts of God through people outside the Church. We might also discover forms of hospitality better able to meet the needs of people who visit our own congregations. We, as modern churchgoers, are already accustomed to giving hospitality. We must now rethink our roles as givers of hospitality and become like strangers in outside communities, humbly receiving the care of others. Roxburgh postulates a radical rethinking of hospitality as primarily receiving care. Even though biblical hospitality consists of a healthy balance of giving and receiving, modern congregations primarily focus on giving and serving others as their sole understanding of hospitality. We are taught to serve others as our commitment to and connection with God. Yet, receiving care tends to be more difficult for us because we must humbly embrace vulnerability. This vulnerability gives the power in a relationship to the people in the community who are providing care. If we, as church-going Christians, learn to expand our ideas of hospitality and begin to receive care as the primary relational contact with outside communities, could we experience God in the communities outside our church buildings and find new ways God is moving in the world? I think we can and that is why I conducted a Doctor of Ministry thesis and project on reversing hospitality. My Doctor of Ministry thesis, Becoming Strangers: Discovering the Presence of God by Receiving Hospitality in Communities Outside Northside Drive Baptist Church, evaluated how participation in communities outside traditional Church boundaries might help Christians adapt their concept of and approach to hospitality. It posits that by not only giving, but also receiving hospitality, churchgoing Christians will experience God’s presence and learn to accept the gifts of God through people who are both philosophically and geographically outside the confines of the traditional Church. The completed results indicated that Christians who receive hospitality actually do experience God’s presence in outside communities. They connect more fully with people and receive their inherent God-given capacities. This, in turn, helps the recipients of hospitality build mutually satisfying relationships with people in their communities. The participants in my study found that congregations must connect with both their own members as well as people outside the church through alternative forms of communication, such as the Internet and social media. Churches must also train lay members to practice mutual hospitality and create more spaces inside and outside the building for more meaningful conversations. Christians who humble themselves and receive hospitality discover the presence of God in their communities and find
more effective ways of providing mutually hospitable opportunities within their own congregations. One participant realized how quickly strong connections could be made with the people in the observed community. The participant marveled, “It was surprising to me to realize how little it takes in just participating in people’s lives to gain enough relationship with them to matter to them and vice versa.” By becoming strangers in their settings and reversing hospitality, the participants created spaces where the guests and the hosts could build relationships and experience mutual care in order to find God at work in the world. God is on the move and the work of God is larger than our congregations and Christian communities. Roxburgh agrees, “The Lord of creation is out there ahead of us; he has left the temple and is calling the church to follow in a risky path of leaving behind its baggage, becoming like the stranger in need, and receiving hospitality from the very ones we assume are the candidates of our evangelism plans.”2 The Bible, especially Luke 12, calls Christians out of their churches and into their neighborhoods and communities. Instead of forcing ecclesial ideas about God on communities where God is already at work, Christians must enter their neighborhoods and communities and receive the gifts people have to offer. For what matters to communities outside the Church matters to God. One participant said it best: I love doing this community study because it has made me much more intentional about sitting back and studying the ways in which people interact, how their method of interaction changes given situations or other people they’re with, the level of empathy they exhibit and what really matters to them. If Christians can receive the gifts of their neighborhoods and communities by becoming like strangers and humbly receiving hospitality, not only will they discover more effective ways of providing m u t u a l l y hospitable opportunities within their congregations, they will experience the presence of God already at work. This would truly be a great reversal for the Church in a postmodern world. —
1 Alan J. Roxburgh, Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2011), 162. 2 Roxburgh, 162.
Iâ€™m the stranger at the door By Rev. Deonie Rose-Marie Duncan Deonie Duncan is an accredited pastor, serving in the Jamaica Baptist Union for the past ten years. She is on sabbatical at McAfee School of Theology since January 2015.
My arrival in Atlanta for sabbatical leave made me the “stranger at the door.” I am outside my usual social support system and beyond my usual geographical and cultural space. The hospitality from the time I was received at the airport until I was introduced at McAfee was absolutely gracious, yet that which was welcoming actually made me uncomfortable. I do not want this to be misunderstood; I appreciate the signs of hospitality, and I am convinced that God laid the foundation from as early as 2010 when I met a McAfee adjunct faculty member. I was uncomfortable as the recipient of Christian hospitality, but this discomfort had to do with me more than just being at McAfee. I was the “stranger at the door.” My sense of independence was challenged, and I was not prepared for it. Maybe the deeper issue was my “celebrated independence” needed exploration. But I was the stranger experiencing kindness from persons who had no obligation to me and yet were serving with such graciousness. While the dynamics of human relationships are constantly evolving, hospitality always presupposes an interface between host and guest. When we offer hospitality, we inevitably share our personal space, available resources and social protocol with others within or across geographical, cultural and socio-economical borders. For Christians, offering hospitality is not an option but an imperative. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (NIV). 1 Peter 4:9-10 says, “…offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (NIV). This command places a burden of responsibility on Christians to serve others graciously when they enter our social spaces. As such, we often consider how to receive “the stranger” in our midst. But what happens when we are the stranger at the door? I do not have the means to repay this kindness to the good people at McAfee, and so I continue to feel vulnerable. When becoming the “stranger,” you get immersed into your hosts’ graciousness, which begins a process of unmasking. This outworking of Christian hospitality becomes subversive. It shapes you with Christian humility forcing you to confront your inadequacies. Surprisingly, my inadequacies emerge in three distinct ways.
The Stranger Worship:
Worship is response to God’s gracious initiative and invitation. God is the “host,” and we ought to come with an openness and willingness to encounter God. Our awareness of God’s holiness makes us uncomfortable when our own insufficiencies are unmasked. The independence that makes me an uncomfortable
recipient of Christian hospitality shapes my attitude and posture in worship, making me culpable of undermining dependence on God. In every sacred place, the worshipper is the “guest” being welcomed. Indeed, this dynamic creates an image of the “stranger at the door” in worship, persons vulnerable and dependent on God. When I am that “stranger,” my attitude and posture reflects submission to God. I am not used to this posture, but I am learning.
Stranger at the Door at the Lord’s Table: Our participation at the Lord’s Table is possible because of the abundance of God’s mercy towards us. There is no place for an attitude or posture of independence or self-sufficiency around the God’s table. It is the gathering of the community of saints. We come as “guests” invited to share in God’s act of grace. So when I, for example, consider myself as the “stranger at the door,” I yield in dependence on God. This too is a difficult posture, but I am glad to be practicing it.
Stranger at the Door in Discipleship: When Jesus sent out the disciples, he instructed them to take very little so they were cast on the hospitality of others. As the “stranger at the door” in Atlanta, I have had to do something similar. I have shared people’s homes. This level of hospitality compels me to revisit some avoided acts of generosity and hospitality in the past. I need to confess these actions to God. I have found this level of introspection to be both unsettling and liberating. My sabbatical journey at McAfee has made me the “stranger” at a lot of doors. I can grasp at that which God is unmasking, but that would be counter to one of my sabbatical goals for a deeper, richer, fuller relationship with God. So I yield to God’s pruning and commit to experiencing hospitality. Every time I do, in every act of McAfee’s hospitality, the signs of God’s grace appear.
On being guests in a strange new world
A tribute to Dr. Charles Whaley By Dr. Rob Nash associate dean professor of missions and world religions
One of the most consummate guests in Baptist life passed away recently. Dr. Charles Whaley, former chancellor of Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan, died at his home in Palmetto, Ga., at the age of 92. I am confident that he ran two miles on the previous day. Yes . . . two miles! He was a man of discipline who hardly deviated from a set routine. I also know that he drove himself to church on the previous Sunday morning, and he recently dined on sushi from the local Publix, a culinary habit that he picked up during his 43 years of missionary service in his adopted country. I’m sure he slept on his futon in the middle of his bedroom floor the previous night in the manner of the Japanese people whom he befriended when he and his wife, Lois, first went to Japan in the aftermath of World War II as guests in a country that their own nation had just defeated and where they could hardly have hoped for a warm reception. Like I said, he was the consummate guest. When he went to Japan, he gave himself over fully and permanently to the experience. He didn’t stick his toe in the water to gauge the temperature. He jumped in the deep end head first. He was a stranger, and the Japanese took him in. He learned their language and their ways. He pastored their churches. He taught in their seminaries. They made him the chancellor of one of their universities. When he climbed out of the pool some 47 years later, he was, for all intents and purposes, Japanese. It was written all over him. How does such a thing happen? How does a stranger from half a world away become so much at home in a foreign land? Of course it takes humility and courage as well as a good measure of stubbornness and determination. But it also requires something far less tangible. It requires that you “guest” well by learning how to receive with curiosity and grace what your hosts offer—food, customs, language, friendship, knowledge, wisdom, faith—and by learning how to enter into your host’s reality for the purpose of expanding your own. Charles somehow accomplished it. We, as the church, would do well to pay attention. We have moved to a different space and are submerged in a new reality. The times demand that we become good guests and receive the hospitality that this strange new world offers to us. It is a new role that
Photo of Dr. Charles Whaley courtesy of FBC Decatur
demands considerable courage, grace and humility, along with a measure of dogged determinism. It is a space where we have little or no control. It is a good place for a tradition that got its start with the divine call of a wandering Aramean and that is always at its best when it is away from home. For some reason, my mother spent far more time teaching me how to be a good guest than she did teaching me how to be a good host. I guess she assumed that the skill of hosting would come naturally to me if she could just teach me how to “guest” well. Or perhaps she was already in touch with the distinction between guesting and hosting and my own need for a measure of humility. She was doggedly determined that I would adhere to a series of commandments that she drilled into my head, all of which served to remind me that the universe did not revolve around me. I list her commandments here in no particular order: Do what your host does Put your napkin in your lap Make your bed and leave a “Thank-you” note Take a gift Obey the rules of the house Make yourself useful as well as ornamental Eat it whether you like it or not I could go on. The point is that Charles Whaley did exactly what my mother demanded of me and, in the process, showed us exactly who and what we need to be for this moment in time. His life and experience is a powerful reminder that we should be spending more time on a Sunday morning talking about how to “guest” well in the world than we spend talking about how to “host” well in the church. Charles was convinced of this need to such an extent that he left a considerable endowment to McAfee. His intention was to drive the future ministers of the church out into world where they could cultivate the skills of guesting and becoming like the disciples in Luke 9, fully dependent upon the hospitality of whatever house or culture they entered. Because of Dr. Whaley’s generosity, I was able to take students on an immersion experience to India this past summer so that we all could learn to “guest” well. My favorite photo from the trip is one of a McAfee student addressing a group of Indian women. Emblazoned upon the back of her t-shirt as she looks out on the crowd are these words of Jesse Mercer: “Lord, save us from an ignorant ministry.” It’s a powerful reminder that the tables have turned. The real education happening in that moment is for the McAfee student far more than it is for the Indian women who listen in rapt attention. They have set the table where she is dining. It’s up to her to put her napkin in her lap and to eat the food that is set before her. It’s up to her to do exactly what her hosts do. It’s the only way she’ll learn. It’s the only way that we, as the church, will learn as well—when we finally understand ourselves as guests and not as hosts, and we learn to act accordingly. I’m grateful to Charles Whaley for teaching all of us such a great lesson.
â€œThe alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.â€? Leviticus 19:34 [NRSV]
Photo courtesy of Alice Horner
How welcoming the stranger changed me By Dr. Karen Massey associate dean professor of Christian education
Back in the 1990s, a civil war was going on in the Balkan countries in Eastern Europe. Yugoslavia had collapsed; breakaway countries such as Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were fighting to establish themselves as independent states. Slobodan Milosevic was the President of Serbia and embroiled Serbia in a series of conflicts with the new Balkan states. Milosevic left it up to his army to settle many of the conflicts between the ethnic groups in the region. In 1998, the army launched a program of ethnic cleansing against the Albanians of Kosovo, and drove hundreds of thousands of them into neighboring countries as refugees. Because there were so many displaced Albanians, the neighboring countries could not accommodate nor care for them. Other nations, including America, came to their aid and offered to welcome the refugees into their countries. In America, the plea went out to churches and nonprofit organizations to offer help with the Albanian refugees who would be arriving to start over in a new land. My church, Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta, took a very courageous step and decided to “adopt” one of the Albanian families and help get them settled into a new life in America. Church member Kay Braswell and I somehow became the “shepherds” for the adoption process. Looking back, I think we were very naïve about the amount of time and energy it would take to invest in the lives of this refugee family, and I think we were unaware of the ways in which this family would change our lives. On a hot summer day in 2000, a group from NDBC arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to welcome the Shabani family from Kosovo. We greeted a dad (Hulusi), a mom (Qjifajete), a 5-year-old son (Shqipirim) and a 3 year old daughter (Shkendija) with nothing but the clothes on their backs and looks of fear on their faces. They spoke no English, and they were Muslims who had no idea who Baptists were. In that moment, I realized that the Shabani family had no choice but to trust us, and they were placing their future in our hands. Christ’s command to “welcome the stranger” suddenly became a deeper and more complex challenge for me. In the days and months following, Kay Braswell waited in long government lines to help the Shabanis fill out the proper paperwork, register for food stamps and get their green cards. Kay and I spent days with the family looking for an apartment, shopping for groceries, buying clothes, enrolling the children in school, getting vaccinations up-todate and finding jobs for the parents. Providing for their basic needs was a necessary part of the process of welcoming these strangers into our lives. The Shabanis learned that we truly cared for their well-being. And, over time, the walls that made us strangers slowly came down. In 2007, Kay and her mother joined the Shabanis at the Capitol as they received their US citizenship. Today, they own their own home, the parents have good jobs and the children are both in college. The Shabanis lives were changed, in part, because Northside Drive Baptist Church dared to welcome those strangers and offer hospitality.
But I have learned that extending hospitality is only one aspect of Christ’s command to welcome the stranger. The command to welcome the stranger also requires that those who extend hospitality be open to being influenced or changed by the stranger. The Shabanis have changed me. I recall an Advent and Christmas season after their first year in America. The pastor of my church, James Lamkin, invited the Shabani family to help light the candle of Peace on the first Sunday of Advent. James also asked Kay and me to stand with the Shabanis during the lighting of the candle. I admit that I was a bit uncomfortable having Muslims participate in a Christian tradition they did not understand. Kay helped Hulusi learn to say the words of the litany phonetically and, on the first Sunday of Advent, Hulusi humbly led the congregation in the litany and the little girl excitedly lit the candle of Peace. After worship was over, I complemented Hulusi on how well he read the litany. His response to me was, “I no understand, but I am for peace.” He reminded me that we all, no matter how different, long for a world without strife and war. During Christmas that same year, the Shabanis invited Kay and me to come to their home on Christmas Day to celebrate. I was a bit uncomfortable at first, not knowing how Muslims and Baptists would celebrate Christmas together; but I accepted their gracious invitation. For the Shabanis, they understood Christmas as a time of gift giving and eating a special meal with friends and family. While we may have different meanings for Christmas, come from different parts of the world, have different histories and have different religious traditions, the lighting of the Advent candle and the Christmas gathering with this Muslim family allowed me to experience the message of Christmas: peace on earth. For a brief season, the message of the Christ child and time shared with the Shabanis made me believe that peace on earth is possible. They taught me that both Christians and Muslims want peace, and they taught me that peace is possible when Christians and Muslims sit at a table together and look at each other in the eyes. Learning to love people who are different from me has truly made my heart bigger, and it has helped me to realize that God is bigger than I could ever imagine. Welcoming those strangers changed me.
Photo courtesy of Karen Massey
Lesley-Ann Hix, ‘14
All in the Family by Rachel Freeny
Fresh out of seminary, Greg and Helms Jarrell wanted to be part of a different kind of Christian community. “They were looking for a way to engage a countercultural movement,” said McAfee alum Lesley-Ann Hix. Enter the Family Tree, an intentional living community located in West Charlotte, North Carolina. The Jarrells founded the community nearly a decade ago in a lowincome neighborhood. Hix, who graduated in May 2014, is currently living and working at the Family Tree as part of a year-long internship. The concept behind the intentional living community is simple. “You’re living with a bunch of people who aren’t family but acting like you’re family,” Hix said. The Family Tree consists of ten people living in two houses. They share everything—food, money and living quarters. This style of living is part of the New Monasticism movement, made popular by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne, among others. The New Monastics strive to live simply and generously, often in the poorest neighborhoods in the country. Life at the Family Tree is no different. “We believe there’s enough space and resources for
everyone in the world,” Hix said. “We are doing our best to share our space and resources with each other in a way that is justice-filled.” Like the monastic movements before them, their days are ordered around prayer and mealtimes. “Part of the reason we live together is we believe that God works through connections of people,” Hix said. “When you are living together in community with each other, the Spirit can get really deep.” Intentional community, for all of its beauty, has its own set of challenges, said Hix. “I think I had a really romanticized view of community before I moved in,” she said. “I thought that everybody was going to think the same way and act the same way and it’s going to be beautiful.” “Nuh uh,” she said, laughing. “It’s just people doing life and going through life stuff.” Living with nine other people has challenged her but has taught her the importance of having a community. “You get to a deeper level of connection with people just because you are around them every day, and you realize how much you need them there.”
going to have a meal even so,” she said. “Out of the blue, we got a call from somebody and she said she had some food from a food bank she could bring. Now our freezer is full with more food than we can use on Friday.” “This happens all the time where we have nothing, and then we end up with more than we need.” The Family Tree relies heavily on donations, but hopes to eventually become self-sustaining. All residents have jobs outside the community, in addition to the work of Family Tree. Another way that Family Tree opens its doors to the community is by hosting a youth group. Once-a-week, neighborhood kids, ages 4 to 18, flood through their doors for food, games and Bible study.
Hospitality and Reconciliation
Photos courtesy of Lesley-Ann Hix
Radical Hospitality The other side of living in intentional community is being a good neighbor. The Family Tree is committed to the neighborhood and has an open door policy. Hix believes they practice “radical hospitality” that “welcomes anyone in.” “The whole point is to be a place where people can feel safe and be affirmed that they are a part of something bigger than themselves,” Hix said. “People have come to trust this place and rely on it as a place where they can fall safely.” Mealtimes are especially important to fostering community among residents and neighbors. “[At dinner time] we just look around and figure out who is staying for dinner,” she said. Twice a month they hold community meals, often sponsored by local churches. Everyone in the neighborhood is invited to come and eat. Some weeks, they are unable to find a church to sponsor the meal. “This especially has been a place where I’ve noticed the loaves and fishes [story] come to life,” Hix said. “This week we did not have a sponsor, but we were
The Family Tree is also committed to racial reconciliation, and Hix knows firsthand they are figuring out this important work as they go. “The work of reconciliation is confusing because there are no steps. You just have to go do it,” she said. “It’s difficult but I think hospitality is the way that we can start to take those steps.” Reconciliation starts with offering what we have. “We’re opening the door when the door doesn’t normally open to you, and we’re fixing you a meal because that’s all we know how to do,” she said. “I don’t know how to fix the systems that are oppressing you, but I know how to give you a meal and give you a bed.” For more information about The Family Tree, visit: www.qcfamilytree.org.
Phil Smith, ‘02
Helping other people eat
I am Phil Smith, a native of Durham, NC, and 2002 graduate of McAfee. While at McAfee and following graduation, I served at First Baptist Church in Rome as minister of students & missions and left there in 2006 to come to Elon University as assistant university chaplain & director of religious life. I was at Elon for a total of eight years in the capacity of assistant university chaplain, then associate university chaplain, and I also did a two-year stint in an Academic Affairs post starting
up a new Domestic Studies program (think study abroad but at locations in the United States). Since around 2008, I have been involved with a sophomore program at Elon called “Life Entrepreneurship,” the premise of which is to help students in the second year of college to discern how their personal histories, passions, strengths and values lead them to craft an entrepreneurial life. The program asks student to reflect upon and take action to write their own story instead of simply following a path others may have laid for them. As far back as the initial retreat for the program facilitators, I had included in my future plans developing a place where “Cheers meets Central Perk,” but as we all often do, I had relegated the notion to a post-retirement novelty that would not actually ever happen. But as I kept facilitating the Life Entrepreneurs program, and encouraging students to think and act outside the box, THEY began to push me to practice what I was preaching. Around that same time (fall of 2013) a restaurant directly across the street from the university closed its doors and the property remained vacant for several months. It was then that I put together a plan and pitched it to university officials
Photos courtesy of Phil Smith
who would decide what would next occupy the space. My plan was well received, and in April of 2014 I began raising money and putting the plan in action. I assumed lease of the property in May and began working fulltime on The Oak House in July. We opened for business on September 5. The first semester was a great success – we quickly developed a regular base of customers to the extent that at Family Weekend I had students bring their parents by to show them their coffee shop or their bar. The university has embraced the venture by using the space for receptions, meetings, classes and informal gatherings. “Elon” is derived from a Hebrew word for “oak tree” and was chosen as the name for the university by its founders as they planted the school in a grove of oaks around 1889. The oak theme is central to Elon University to this day, as first year students receive an acorn at their first convocation and graduates take with them an oak seedling after they walk across the stage at commencement. So The Oak House was named to represent a connection to the university community in which it is situated. One of the goals for The Oak House has been to offer hospitality and foster community building. Our staff doesn’t
just make espresso drinks, pour coffee and recommend wine—they greet customers with friendly smiles, call them by name and try to make everyone feel as if The Oak House is their place. We are also accomplishing this by creating a relaxed space for students to study, for faculty to interact with each other and with students and for staff to have meetings and workshops. We host numerous student organizations and hold fundraiser and awareness events. Last fall we hosted a community dialogue sponsored by Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society which was well attended by students, staff and faculty. The President’s Office hosted a reception at The Oak House for all full professors which was well received. We are a H.O.P.E (Helping Other People Eat) certified business, partnering with a student led nonprofit which seeks to alleviate hunger in our community. Elon’s Catholic Campus Ministry recently began a Thursday night “Upper Room at The Oak House” gathering for seniors to explore and discuss their faith. We are working on an event loosely entitled “A rabbi, a priest, and a minister go in to a bar…” to create a space for informal interfaith dialogue and understanding to complement the more academic study of religion. On a daily basis we see around 400 people ranging from prospective student families to the president of the university. Various academic and staff groups/teams utilize the space for meetings. One staff member conducted all of her end-of-year staff appraisal interviews at The Oak House. It is not odd to see a faculty member and student discussing a paper or project, and during the day I call our lounge, as well as the bar, “laptop city” with all of the students writing, researching and socializing in one of our 83 seats. Some links that may help: www.elonpendulum.com/2014/05/oak-house-replace-towntable www.elonpendulum.com/2014/09/oak-house-set-opendowntown-elon-week www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_gQRR1koIU
Meg Olive, ‘08
Fostering Hospitably by Kate Riney
[The photos in this story have been edited to protect the identities of the children.] It was over the course of Meg Olive’s years in college and seminary that she was able to travel to more than 20 countries and experience genuine hospitality from people of faith firsthand. “Seeing that kind of hospitality was like experiencing the gospel in action,” Olive said. “I was able to spend some time with the Bedouin people in Jordan who still practice hospitality in the same ways we read about in Hebrew Scriptures!” Experiences like these have led Olive to become a person deeply committed to one of faith’s oldest traditions: radical hospitality. Olive is the coordinator for a community initiative, called Circles, in Columbus, Ga., that functions out of a United Methodist community center. Her site is part of a larger national initiative called Circles® USA. Circles works to empower low-income families to become financially stable and self-sufficient. They accomplish this by helping families set their own SMART Goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) and create their own plans for change. In addition to help and support with that process, each participant is matched
with volunteers called “Allies.” Allies work with participants in friendship for at least 18 months and experience life in their shoes, from riding public transport, to living off a food stamp budget for a week. But Olive’s work with Circles goes beyond solidarity; it forms community. “Before we started Circles in our community the director of our agency and I attended a Circles meeting in another state. I remember leaving the meeting that evening thinking, ‘I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how you create that sense of community,’” said Olive. “What I have learned is that community is not something you can force--but something that evolves when people get together regularly and genuinely care about one another. Each week during our meetings, I can look around the room and see nearly 70 people that now know people they would have never known without Circles. The spirit of community created helps us all see that what benefits my neighbor ultimately benefits me as well. We are all neighbors.” Olive is also a foster parent to two children, a 21-monthold girl and a 7-month-old boy. Olive said she would have never considered foster parenting five years ago, but in
tell people I foster is, ‘Oh, I couldn’t do that--I would get too attached!’--as if I don’t get attached! Yes, I fear getting my heartbroken, but that’s what real love is about--risking something, being vulnerable, and expecting nothing in return. “The process of loving and then losing is not something that comes naturally to anyone. It is a challenge that we willingly take on because we know it is right. “Hospitality is a habit that has to worked on. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us to be friends with people who are dramatically different than we are--which is what we are asking people to do in Circles. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us to open our homes to children in crisis who need a safe and loving place to be--knowing our hearts will break in the process.”
Photos courtesy of Meg Olive
her work with low-income families she met several moms who had their kids put into DFCS custody. She saw what a difference it made when the kids were with a foster family that worked with the parents toward what was best for the kids. Olive and her partner completed the training and were licensed in August 2013, barely a week before they got their first call. Since then, Olive and her partner have parented 5 kids ranging in age from 6 weeks to 4 years of age who have stayed with them from 4 days to 13 months. “For me,” Olive said, “foster care is about hospitality. It is about having something I can offer someone who needs it. It is not about me at all. It is about a family needing care, children needing a safe and loving home and their basic needs met--for a short time or a long time. And I have those things to give, so I think I have a responsibility as a Christian to give those things. “The most common thing I hear when I
Julianus Pomerius talks about hospitality as ‘unbending one’s self.’ That is what Olive is doing; she is unbending herself enough to make room to know someone else and to become involved in someone else’s story. What part of your life could you unbend to make room for the stranger? “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” -Matthew 25:35
Better Together: FBC
Sometimes God’s vision for a church walks right through the front doors. In the case of First Baptist Church of Athens, Georgia, God’s vision called them on the phone. In April 2013, FBC Athens, one of McAfee’s founding church communities was in the midst of a visioning process. They desired to be more present in their community but weren’t exactly sure what that might look like. What they did know is that they had a kitchen. “We realized we had a kitchen and dining space that was really built to do a whole lot more than it was doing, but we didn’t really know how to use it,” Senior Pastor and McAfee board member Paul Baxley said. A few days after their last visioning meeting, Baxley got a call that would change everything for the church. On the other side of town, Oconee Methodist Church tragically burned down. Oconee was host to Our Daily Bread, a community kitchen for the homeless run by Action Ministries. Our Daily Bread needed a place to continue their ministry, and they asked Baxley if FBC Athens would temporarily host them. “In the midst of that tragedy there was an opportunity for us to decide if we were really serious about being more open and more inviting to a larger part of the Athens community,” Baxley said. What started as a temporary, emergency arrangement
soon turned into a permanent partnership. Brandon Pendry, Minister of Youth and Missions, believes the process was natural and transformative for the church. “It’s changed the culture around here,” Pendry said. “It’s like inviting people to your home, you get to know them in a different way. You can go serve the homeless at the soup kitchen once a month or you can have them eating in your fellowship hall twice a day indefinitely.” Members of FBC Athens have embraced Our Daily Bread with open arms and are heavily invested in the ministry. “We have one guy who comes in almost every day, comes in from way out in the county,” Pendry said. “And he knows everybody down there. He knows their names, their stories. For a while he was filling in for the kitchen manager when he was out.” Our Daily Bread has shown the church new ways of looking at hospitality. They refer to themselves as a community kitchen, and five minutes in the fellowship hall will reveal why. The room hums with conversations between the guests who sit around the tables. A few of them are regulars, Pendry says, but many are newcomers. Walking the few hundred steps from the door to the kitchen takes longer than it should, as Pendry stops to greet the regulars. They laugh and joke. Some even want to talk theology. “It’s made my work day a much more engaging,
Our Daily Bread
are changing Athens together, one meal at a time. by Rachel Freeny
personal time,” Pendry said of Our Daily Bread. “Now I have so many random, happenstance conversations that I probably wouldn’t if there wasn’t two to three hundred people coming through the building every day.” Pendry and the other volunteers have built genuine relationships with many of the people who walk through their doors every day. They refer to them as guests. “It’s a whole different mindset of how you treat people and the respect that you pay to all people by calling them guests,” he said. Though they provide space and volunteers, FBC Athens does not run Our Daily Bread. “I think the beauty of the partnership is that it has allowed our congregation to be involved in a ministry in this community that is much bigger than we are, Baxley said. “If First Baptist was going to operate a feeding ministry like this it would require different staffing, different budgeting.” “In this partnership model, you bring what you have,” Baxley said. “We have a facility. We have people with the gift of hospitality. We are a First Baptist church in a downtown
community, so we have some financial resources. We bring those things but in a way that allows other folks to bring what they have.” The partnership has been mutually beneficial for the church and for Our Daily Bread. Action Ministries is an established ministry in the community that partners with congregations throughout Athens. Baxley notes that this allows them to bring in more volunteers than any one church would be able to do on its own. In turn, FBC Athens is in a more central location that allows Our Daily Bread to serve more people on a daily basis. “We’ve tried really to embrace the ministry for what it is,” Pendry said. “It’s a legacy ministry here in Athens. It’s been here for thirty years. They obviously know what they are doing, so it’s not up to us to add things.” A healthy partnership is not without its challenges. “This church’s facility is busy during the week, so sharing space is more of a mutual challenge,” Baxley said. “It’s required flexibility on our part, flexibility on their part. We had to establish and reinforce healthy patterns of communicating.” There are benefits to churches being challenged. “This kind of partnership also allows traditional, downtown, established congregations to rediscover a capacity for agility,” he said. “Because when you’re going to share space like this, you’ve got to be agile. You can’t be dug in.” Both Baxley and Pendry agree that the challenges of partnership are worth it. “I think partnership is going to increasingly be an important way of doing ministry because an authentic partnership model is what allows the greatest number of people to be involved in doing the most good,” Baxley said. God has used this ministry to change the live of the church and the lives of the guests, many of who become volunteers themselves. Pendry said, “[This partnership has been] a really powerful testimony that when you as a community seek what God is doing, God will show you.”
M.Div. (7 track options) • M.Div./M.S. Clinical Mental Health M.Div./MBA • M.Div./M.S. Nonprofit • MACM • D.Min. theology.mercer.edu • 3001 Mercer University Dr., Atlanta, GA 30341 • (678) 547-6474
class notes 09
Ryan Clark (MDiv) is now church engagement manager for Global Missions at the national office for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Jennifer Hornbuckle (MDiv) was recently affirmed as Recognized Clergy with the Alliance of Baptists.
Allison Hicks Anderson (MDiv) and husband, Adam, welcomed the birth of their first child, Ryleigh Katherine Anderson, on January 6, 2015.
Danny Harrell (MDiv) is the new campus pastor at Lakepoint Community Church in Madison, Ga.
Scott Lee (MDiv) is now serving as hospice chaplain with Pruitt Health Hospice in the Atlanta area while continuing to serve as campus minister with the Cooperative Student Fellowship.
Teresa Ander Franklin (MDiv) became a grandmother on September 17, 2014, to a beautiful baby girl, Arianna Lynn Stevens.
Jamie Farish-Williford (MDiv) and wife Hannah are moving to New Jersey. Hannah accepted a position in cardiology, and Jamie was accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York to train for 18 months.
Lee Sosebee Ritchie (MDiv) accepted a call from Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC, as minister with children and families.
William Deal (MDiv) and Mary Kate Deal (MACM, ‘13) moved to Richmond, VA where William is the minister to youth and young adults at Derbyshire Baptist Church and Mary Kate is the parish administrator at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
See you at CBF 's
General Assembly Dallas, TX
Join us for an Alumni and Friends Ice Cream Reception Thursday, June 18 9:00-10:00 p.m. Cotton Bowl room Hyatt Regency Hotel
Sonia Lee Piotter (MDiv) is fulfilling her calling by serving as counseling pastor with her husband, Israel, at Victory World Church. A year ago their 4-yearold Isabella became a big sister by welcoming a sweet baby boy into the family, Ethan. Now Ethan is excited to be a big brother this July as they expect Baby Piotter #3. Mary Vernon Smiley (MDiv) announces her retirement after 23 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
John Rogers (MDiv) and wife celebrate the birth of their daughter, Alice Anna Rogers, on September 26, 2014.
Amanda Ducksworth (DMin) celebrates one year as the campus dean at Strayer University in Huntsville, AL.
Mike Glover (MDiv) married Amanda Glover on November 1, 2014.
Mary Kaylor (MDiv) accepted a call to serve as minister to children and families at FBC Memphis, TN. Lesley-Ann Hix (MDiv) and Blake Tommey (MDiv) are engaged to be married in September 2015.
Next Issue of Tableaux
years as Dean: The Legacy of R. Alan Culpepper