Our Place supporters preparing for the zoning board meeting.
This week Our Place went before the zoning board requesting a special use permit for an adult day care center and a parking variation to permit the continued operation of Our Place in our church's space. The zoning board passed a recommendation in favor of seeing how a new traffic procedure will impact traffic flow in the neighborhood. There is still work to be done. The zoning board requested a six month trial period, followed by a review. We want to listen to concerns from neighbors to ensure traffic around the church is safe. Ultimately, the request will go to the Village Board for approval. The process of obtaining a special use permit has created space to hear from neighbors and from families of Our Place participants and has made me reflect on hospitality.
Hospitality played a significant role in shaping the early Christian communities. Forget the images from Better Homes and Garden, centerpieces from Martha Stewart, or fresh baked cookies when you check into the hotel, Christian hospitality is at the core of Jesus' teachings. Christian hospitality is about creating a space at the table for all because we recognize that each person is formed in the image of God. Author Christine Pohl notes,
“If, when we open the door, we are oriented toward seeing Jesus in the guest, then we welcome that person with some sense that God is already at work in his or her life. This can fundamentally change our perspective and our sense of the dimensions of the relationship. We are more sensitive to what the guest is bringing to us, to what God might be saying or doing through him or her.”
Christian hospitality is more than making sure people feel welcomed or comfortable. It is about taking up a call to live our lives in our neighborhoods and demonstrated there who God is.
Regardless of where you park your church membership, your doctrine (or lack thereof), or how you view your faith, we are invited to live out lives for the common good that can change our communities. Are we working towards being hospitable people?
Some excerpts from the letters that were sent to the zoning board included statements about our church and how our church has made others feel welcomed. One mom noted the gratitude she felt when she moved to Wilmette and realized the resources that were available for her child: "In so many other places across the country, children and adults with disabilities are educated in 'special schools' or 'shut away' living in isolated group homes."
Writing about their son, another mother writes, "Given his autism and minimal language, he would have few options for a social experience with friends on a Saturday evening without this opportunity."
New Trier offers terrific programming for children with developmental disabilities, but there is little in resourcing once young adults turn 22. One parent talks about their fear that their son "would wake up on his 22nd birthday with no place to go, no one to be with during the day except his mom, and have nothing to do but watch television." And later mentioning,"It is impossible to overstate the impact Our Place has had on our lives."
One of the moms who has participated in events at our church mentions, "Our cooperative and beneficial relationship with the Community Church of Wilmette is not something that can just be replicated somewhere else."
When we live lives that are rooted in Christian hospitality, we begin to develop hearts of grace and souls of love that build relationships and transform communities in ways that are larger than just ourselves.