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Monday, September 24, 2007

RevGalBookPals--"Good Fences: The Boundaries of Hospitality"


Hello, RevGals and Pals!

Our book for September is Good Fences: The Boundaries of Hospitality, written by Caroline A. Westerhoff. The author, a former senior consultant with the Alban Institute, uses personal recollections and stories of church life to illustrate her thesis that we cannot welcome people into our lives or our churches without having a clear idea of what sets us apart from them.

The book comes with a discussion guide for church groups interested in exploring their own attitudes about and practices around hospitality. I hope you will take a look at them as well as the following questions:

1. My own church is currently seeking ways to live into four areas identified in a visioning process. The first two happened to be Identity and Hospitality. When church members asked for help with Hospitality, I suggested that they needed to be clear about Identity first, and this is Westerhoff's supposition. What is your response to the Boundaries First/Hospitality Second paradigm? Is there more to Identity than Boundaries? Or is there another metaphor that might feel more helpful?

2. How important is the distinction between essentials and non-essentials in your understanding of boundaries?

3. On page 87 of the paperback edition, Westerhoff describes the participation of a group of visiting Buddhist monks who came to the rail for Communion at her church. What was your response to this story and the discussion that took place after? Do we control the eucharist? Are there "levels" of hospitality?

4. If you have had a chance to do a unit or more of Clinical Pastoral Education, you have heard a story like the one of page 98. A student feels distressed after baptizing a baby who had already died, conflicted about what baptism means and whether it was appropriate in this case, but also certain that the parents needed pastoral care in this form. How do you respond to this case study? What might you have done in the student's position?

5. The epilogue of the book contains a lengthy story about a church's process in choosing to fence in its property. Please share your reactions.

6. Westerhoff calls on Jesus' self-description as a "narrow gate" in support of her thesis that our boundaries must be clear. Where do you think Jesus would draw his lines?

7. In Chapter 5, Westerhoff refers us to the baptismal covenant as a means to test our boundaries. Does this feel like a helpful tool?

8. Westerhoff admits that others are better-suited than she to certain practices of hospitality. How do you strive to *be* a neighbor in your own neighborhood? What are the challenges of being a neighbor?

I'll share more thoughts in the comments and hope you will do the same.

47 comments:

  1. I didn't read the book (I hope to read next month's), but it sounds interesting. I may have to pick it up. I struggle with hospitality. Well, I enjoy reading the discussion.

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  2. Sadly I have not had a chance to read this book. Generally I do like Caroline Westerhoff's writing. I find her creative and engaging.

    I have, however had to deal with much of what it seems this book looks at: to whom do we offer communion and why might we offer it to Buddhist monks (Ok, never had that one exactly)? What does hospitality mean? What do boundaries mean? I'd like to know what she has to say about baptism, Jesus' "Narrow gate" and clarity of identity. I think clarity of identity is key right now, we need to know who are and stand on that ground. I think fuzziness is part of the "problem" in the ECUSA at this time...and yet we still have that via media that I love.

    Looking forward to what I hope will be a lively conversation today. Thanks SB for leading us.

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  3. I read it, but will be commenting later today. See you later!

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  4. Another one here who has not yet read the book, but I posted at my blog about the baptism question, from my own experiences, here.

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  5. I blogged about Good Fences and would've written an entire book myself, but needed to comment in time to get into the drawing--thanks for the great read.

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  6. Yay for folks that are commenting to get into the drawing - you can post until midnight tonight to be eligible for the drawing.

    I, too, will comment later, but I would have loved to have seen those monks walking down to receive communion.

    Just a quick drop in to say hello, as I have other errands to run. Martha, you have asked some excellent questions, and I want to share one part of the book that really spoke to me, but later.

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  7. sad that I wasn't able to read the book, tho still want to. I'm way behind right now on reading, but I find the concept intriguing.

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  8. I confess to not having read this book yet...the pile of books "to be read" has morphed into a whole shelf and I am horribly behind. Having said that, one of the questions reminded me of my first baptism-of-a-stillborn-baby experience. I struggled with it but ultimately had to decide that a) it was what the family needed and b) if I really believe that everyone is a child of God, even before they're born, then there is no reason not to have the outward sign of the grace that is surely present.

    Our congregation is working on a visioning process and I am intrigued to see where it leads us, identity-wise...and how we will continue to practice hospitality once we've supposedly figured ourselves out!

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  9. Cathy, me, too, on the monks receiving the Bread of Life and Cup of Salvation! Maybe some of you have heard a famous anecdote about Krister Stendahl, who when he was Dean of Harvard Divinity School regularly presided at early Wednesday morning eucharist at University Lutheran. A turbaned Sikh guy attended regularly, but didn't approach the Table, though (reportedly) back-of-the-scenes discussion arose as to "what if" he did? That day came, and Pastor Kris communed him. Wish I'd been there, as well!

    Waiting to win, but expecting to be happy whoever does.

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  10. I did read the book, but somehow it didn't really speak to me.

    Since I have a lot of respect for Songbird's opinion, this troubled me and I've been trying to articulate why I didn't like Good Fences very much.

    Songbird has some great questions in which she highlights some of the stories in the book. These were parts of the book I did find thought-provoking and useful. I think I was disappointed that there weren't more of them.

    I also think that I expected a more detailed discussion of boundary-setting in different contexts than I found in the book. Also the writing style of the author was not very interesting to me.

    I'll be interested to hear more from those of you who enjoyed the book. Maybe then I'll see how I missed the boat with this one.

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  11. The title made me want to read this, your questions make it sound even more appealing - though I fear that my current church is a long way from even realising that there are hospitality questions to consider...
    Does anyone know a good, accessible book on boundaries in ministry generally, for a hassled curate with not enough time on her hands and an out of control "to read" pile?

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  12. The question about whether opening up the Eucharist to non-baptized Christians is a matter of hospitality is a large one in my mind and in the Episcopal Church right now. I think I would have done exactly what the priest at Westerhoff's church did and serve the monks BUT I also agree with those who felt that this was a special in the moment thing. I really think boundaries and hospitality come into play when we talk about "communion without baptism". I don't know if this issue is big in other denominations or not...

    I do think the baptismal covenant is helpful for thinking about boundaries, but it's not black and white. But again, do others have the same baptismal covenant?

    Incidentally, I owned this book but never read it and when I saw that the RGBPs were going to be reading it, I went looking for my copy and couldn't find it. But at a meeting last week a retiring priest was giving away books and there it was, mine for the taking. I haven't finished it yet, but I am glad I picked it up again. The Westerhoffs were in residence at my seminary my last year there. They are wonderful people!

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  13. Quotidian Grace, the first time I tried to read this, it didn't speak to me, either. I'm not sure why I reacted differently this time--maybe having had the Westerhoff's as neighbors? Maybe being in a different place in my ministry than when I first tried it? I don't know, but I'm getting more out of it this time.

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  14. I'm not sure I said I liked it, QG. I find I am troubled on some level by the whole thesis, although I can accept it as a logical argument. I would conclude that Westerhoff needs the boundaries herself and built the thesis on her own temperament.

    Yesterday, my 16-year-old son, who is away at boarding school, visited a non-denominational church that has very clear theological boundaries--for those who join the church. They are wide open to visitors. They are that wide open because they believe that people who don't share their theology are "lost," and by "lost" I assume they mean going to hell, not just out of relationship with God. I have no idea how they handle Communion, and I think that would be an interesting question.

    I raise that church as a case study because while some kids felt welcomed, my more finely-tuned, inclusive theologically-minded child got the message that only certain ways of thinking/believing would ultimately be welcomed.

    Now, when people in my fairly moderate UCC congregation--well, wait a minute, let me define those terms, too. I serve what I consider to be a moderate church. Politically the members range from Republican to Democratic, but not out to the fringes in either direction. In practice the language for God used in hymns and set prayers is masculine, but no one seems to object to more inclusive language being used as long as we don't change the Doxology/Gloria/Lord's Prayer. They consider themselves to be welcoming, but most would rather not notice that visitors or members are anything other than straight. (Don't ask, don't tell, in other words.)

    They would like to be hospitable to newcomers, and certain people are, but they don't have the motivation of the church my son visited because they don't believe that we have a message that will keep our visitors from burning in the next life. Where do we get our motivation for hospitality, then?

    We're in a process of defining the church's identity, which includes a class viewing and discussing "Living the Questions 2.0" after church each week. One of the first questions asked: "does this curriculum respect other religions?" I said, yes, and the response was "amazing! That's amazing! Most Christian classes don't!"

    They're more liberal than they realize. As a defining characteristic, as a boundary, how does that play out? What does it mean for hospitality? What does it mean about their faithfulness?

    More questions than answers.

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  15. I have knowingly served Communion to an unbaptized person, and here were the circumstances. A couple began attending Small Church, and I asked if they would like to become members. The wife said she would, but her husband was reluctant because he knew he had not been baptized as an infant and felt self-conscious about being baptized in front of the congregation. I suggested we let it be for the moment and hope that he would change his mind. She joined the church and became active, while he attended sporadically, most often when their children participated in worship.
    In that church at that time, Communion was most often passed in the little trays, so I had no knowledge of his sacramental habits. But one time we had Communion by intinction, and in the Invitation, I stressed that this was Christ's table and all who felt called to it were welcome.
    The man came forward, and he received Communion. I can't believe that doctrine, which we're not heavy on in the UCC anyway, could possibly outweigh his conscious decision to rise and come forward that day. What good would a fence have done?

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  16. Once again, I didn't read the book, but I do come from a church that allows anyone who considers themselves "saved" to take communion. We are very open and do not "check up" on anyone. We leave it up to the person's conscience.

    We do not have a baptismal covenant. Our belief is that baptism should be done, but the timing is up to the individual person. We don't believe that you must be baptized to get into heaven. To be honest, I haven't done an in-depth study of this, so I can't honestly explain much further than that.

    We also do not have infant baptism, but rather dedications. We believe that the person should decide to be baptized of their own accord and that cannot happen when they are infants. We do recommend baptism after someone is saved, but we are in no rush to get it done.

    I hope that helps answer Rev Dr Mom's question.

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  17. Songbird, one of my reservations about communion w/o baptism is that we haven't thought through how that affects what we teach about baptism...in the Episcopal church anyway, the movement is font to table. If we're going to reverse that or decouple it, I would like us to be thoughtful about it.

    I guess the larger question, and perhaps the one underlying this book, is "is it inhospitable to have boundaries?" Or, can one have boundaries and still be inclusive? Clearly Westerhoff would answer no to the first and yes to the second. What do others think?

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  18. In the UCC, to the extent that we have any universal practices, baptism is the first step towards the table, but I have never heard an Invitation that specified "Baptized Christians" as those to be included. Had the man asked me ahead of time, I would have explained that he ought to be baptized to participate, but I wasn't going to turn him away when he suddenly appeared in front of me.
    So, I'm not suggesting they be reversed or decoupled, RDM, just saying I've found myself in a similar spot to that Westerhoff describes.

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  19. I'm not an official member of RevGals yet, so I hope you won't mind me commenting on "Good Boundaries".

    I disagreed with her assertion that "we are not God's hands in the world". I do agree that "God could do it without our help" but that isn't how it works - at least, not in my understanding of theology. God chooses to do it through our work. Otherwise, why are we here? What are we doing?

    It wasn't the best book that I've read lately but it had several excellent points. I wish that I had brought it with me so that I could be more explicit. Alas!!

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  20. I believe the Font/Table connection is important and worthy of continued discussion, *even* around this modest table. But as the comments suggest, some kind of starting point needs to clarify if baptism and holy communion are sacraments or simple ordinances and if we perceive them as means of grace, effective means of grace or signs of grace. In the end, God may smile at our deliberations, but is God's smile not at least as much pleasure that we're interested and concerned as it is amusement that we think we can figure this out after millennia of theologizing? I'm looking forward to reading more comments--thanks, everyone!

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  21. Ok, I have a little interesting monkey wrench to throw into the baptism/communion deal and am personally experiencing this.

    My husband's daughter is not baptized, and is 9. If it were up to us, she would have been baptized by now. However, we know that if we did, we would not want to do it without the agreement of her mother, and she would not agree to it. It would be the sort of thing that if we planned to baptize her, she would make it so it didn't happen. (and by law in our state, she can make the decision not to have her baptized since she has primary custody of her). So...... she wants communion, she wants to read in church, she loves church, but we can't do it now because of the friction it would cause that we don't want her to have to go through. So, we put this in God's hands - baptism will occur "really and truly" when we can have it done without the conflict. We raise her in the church, she receives communion --- so she comes to the table with the desire. What more can one ask for?

    And, we don't know what seed that communion planted in those monks either. There may have been more of a reason than we fully understand when they walked to the table.

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  22. I can't imagine the circumstances under which I would refuse anyone who came to the altar with outstretched hands. Nor can I imagine "carding" anyone. The standard invitation has long been (printed in the bulletin and some times said aloud) "all baptized Christians are invited to receive communion" But recently in many places (including my own parish) it has been changed to "all are invited to receive communion". I've heard the argument that to do otherwise is to be lacking in hospitality, but as I said before, I think it is more complicated than that. But I don't mean to sidetrack this discussion....

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  23. I don't see it as a sidetrack at all, RDM.
    I would love to hear more from others on this. Cathy, thanks for giving us another life example!

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  24. My church says much like revdrmom's church - and I instituted this. So, I can say with all honesty that it is a huge question, baptism then table or table then baptism? What it means for me is that I know who comes to the table, (well, mostly) and if someone chooses to come who has not yet been baptized I would be very intentional about what baptism means as the primary sacrament of the Christian faith. Or maybe I should say "one" of two primary sacraments of the Episcopal Church - those being baptism and Holy Eucharist. In essence they go hand in hand. It matters less to me which comes first, it matters more to me that we take advantage of the teaching moment and help people understand the significance of baptism and how it defines us as Christian. Without baptism we are just another person. That is in some ways without judgment, says I in my good ole "liberal" way.... But with baptism we are Christian - and that comes with a whole host of meaning(s). So. My boundary is, I (kinda sorta)care not which comes first. I do care that one partakes in both baptism and holy communion - it is what it means to be a part of the Christian faith, the body of Christ, and this faith community.

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  25. Cathy, your story is an excellent example of why whatever boundaries we have need to be flexible and (semi)permeable.

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  26. Probably one of my favorite parts of the book in which I identified most was this (on page 21).

    "You may think it odd and a waste of my time," she said, "but I frequently go alone to the old church and just sit. I'm not really praying. It's more like I'm soaking it all in, filling myself up with its spirit: the smell of the wood, the light filtering in through the windows, the colors, the feel of the carved altar rail --- every bit of it...."

    That expressed so well what I experience on Sundays, not only with being alone, but when the church is filled with people and when prayers are being said -- with the people who meet together week after week, journeying together, but also separate lives, being brought together in common worship.

    *************************

    In terms of the baby and the baptism, I would have baptized the baby, even if it were me as a lay person, I would have taken that opportunity to offer that to the parent and to the child.

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  27. oops--make that "effective sign of grace...and I do agree it would be the height of fallen humanity to refuse to commune anyone who approached the Table with pleading hands. And Cathy, I so agree about "seed planted!" One of the years I taught confirmation I expressed surprise to the senior pastor that a certain teenager was getting confirmed. He replied, "she thinks she's given her life to the Lord," and then added,"ultimately, I'm okay with it because she's also being baptized - receiving a sacrament - on that day." In other words, God's Word, God's Work, God's Thing, not primarily ours, but done for us and in us.

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  28. It sounds like there are more of us who have not read the book than who have. I am a have not. However, I can weigh in on a couple of issues.

    First the baptism of the deceased infant. In my CPE experience (still fresh on my mind), I did not find myself in this position. The pastoral care department had already developed a naming ceremony to be used with infants who had died. I used this along with praying for God's blessing on the baby's soul. Fortunately for me this was acceptable to the parents I cared for.

    Next, on communion. The invitation in the United Methodist Hymnal reads "Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another." It then moves into a prayer of confession. I'm not sure where the monks would have fit in the "all who love him" part. I do know I would not have turned them away. John Wesley considered Holy Communion to be a "Means of Grace," a way in which we experience God's unconditional love. He also wrote about prevenient grace in which God woes us before we know God's love. I believe that Holy Communion can be a means of prevenient grace.

    Well there is my input. Did I win? Did I win?

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  29. I am pastor of a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation that is clear in our welcome of all God's people to the Table. Each week we state that "All are welcome at the table. For this is not our table; it is Christ's table." Our inner city congregation is just down the street from a University with Medical School and Nursing School. We often have people who make their home in our congregation during their years of study here. Over the past 2 years we had nursing students from both Thailand and Taiwan. Two of these students were Buddhist but worshiped with us regularly as they came with friends who were Christian. We welcomed them at the table. There was really never much thought in my mind that they would necessarily become Christian. We did not have an agenda to "convert" anyone. We, in fact, celebrated the gifts they brought from their own culture and religion. To my amazement, these two Buddhists decided that they had experienced the welcome of Christ and upon their return home have found Christian churches there and been baptized. One of the struggles for them has been that the Christian Churches in their countries are so much more conservative than ours (which is quite a liberal, open and affirming congregation). I tell this story, not believing that our agenda should always be to convert those who are not Christian. I simply believe in the depth of my being that the Table of Christ is not the gate where we sort people as acceptable or not acceptable for entrance. The Table of Christ is the Table of Jesus whose radical hospitality transformed lives.

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  30. I did a study of communion and 'open hospitality' around the table. If you are at a 'broad' church vs a 'high' church it is not as problematic, i.e. if the Bread and Cup are mere symbols.

    However... I think that the point is to stop and remember what the cross was about. If someone who is NOT a Christ-follower (baptized or not) stops to consider the "why" of the cross... I think they should be invited.

    Iffen I remember my Corinthians passage correctly the "unworthy manner" admonition was to Christians... so I don't think it necessarily has to apply to the unbaptized. And the point is to reflect, remember AND celebrate the work that is "finished".

    The problem is, we denominational types add a whole lotta stripes to the skunk. (as in, making a stink...)

    I have only read the first part of the book... so I can't totally defend anything she says. I'm convinced that we put more barriers, humanly speaking, between people and God than are in the Bible. But at the same time, we can not compromise WHO Jesus was on earth - Incarnate God! Not just a good holy dude...

    As far as baptism goes, I'm more of a believer's baptism stripe (though not defiantly so) so someone who is unbaptized having The Lord's Supper does not completely rock my boat. But if they don't believe in God, I do wonder why they would want to...

    Deb

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  31. Baptise teh stillborn? Without a doubt do it. It is the Pastoral theology trumping doctrine response. (And actually we didn't have a discussion on that point in CPE)

    THe monks at the table?? In the UCCan the langage used is that "all who are trying to follow the way of Christ are welcome at this table". PEople can then self-select and it is not my place to question. Mind you, I suspect that some of our more PResbyterian-minded members would have a different opinion. There are people in our churches who still remember the Elder bringing the Communion token so they could take part.

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  32. As it happens I was listening to someone talk about Buddhism on NPR this evening and it reminded me that Buddhists don't have a 'god' per se to believe in. I've known some people who see little or no contradiction between embracing Buddhist thought and being a Christian, although I don't think that's what those monks were about. But it does lead me to wonder what receiving the Eucharist meant to them.

    Well, I'm going to finish the book now...this discussion has raised more questions for me.

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  33. 1. My own church is currently seeking ways to live into four areas identified in a visioning process. The first two happened to be Identity and Hospitality. When church members asked for help with Hospitality, I suggested that they needed to be clear about Identity first, and this is Westerhoff's supposition. What is your response to the Boundaries First/Hospitality Second paradigm? Is there more to Identity than Boundaries? Or is there another metaphor that might feel more helpful?

    The metaphor is helpful to begin the conversation. I don’t think I have a better one.

    I think it is important to know your identity but I'm not sure that knowing your boundaries necessarily leads to the extension of hospitality. It seems to me that most of us (individually and collectively) like to think of ourselves as more open, tolerant, accepting, etc. than we are when it comes to actually interacting with people who test our stated boundaries. Perhaps, that interaction is a refining of our boundaries but I'm not sure how well defined we can be about our communal boundaries when the community is often in flux according to the participants in the community and the context in which that community is located.

    2. How important is the distinction between essentials and non-essentials in your understanding of boundaries?

    If boundaries are the first step, then understanding the distinction between essentials and non-essentials is necessary. If there is not clarification between essentials and non-essentials within the community, the risk is that the non-essentials become barriers to hospitality or defuse the boundaries by including those who do not value the community's essentials.

    3. On page 87 of the paperback edition, Westerhoff describes the participation of a group of visiting Buddhist monks who came to the rail for Communion at her church. What was your response to this story and the discussion that took place after? Do we control the eucharist? Are there "levels" of hospitality?

    I find this an interesting question. John Wesley (Anglican priest, founder of Methodism), at one point, required communion cards for those in the societies (spiritual formation groups) and, yet, at the same time, argued that communion was a means of grace in which a person could meet Christ for the first time. So, even while intentionality and baptism were vitally important, he would not refuse someone communion because he did not want to keep them from the experience of Christ that could bring salvation.

    With that in mind, I carefully considered what I would do regarding communion when I was in a position to preside. I will serve those who present themselves for communion, trusting in the grace of God when I serve those that might be considered "undeserving."

    4. If you have had a chance to do a unit or more of Clinical Pastoral Education, you have heard a story like the one of page 98. A student feels distressed after baptizing a baby who had already died, conflicted about what baptism means and whether it was appropriate in this case, but also certain that the parents needed pastoral care in this form. How do you respond to this case study? What might you have done in the student's position?

    Sometimes the best theological understanding is not helpful in communicating the everpresent grace of God. I have a high regard for solid theology. I have little tolerance for mindless following without question. That being the case, I will set my well formed, deeply considered theological understanding aside, in the service of re-presenting God to the best of my ability. For me, pastoral care always has the potential to trump theology. That decision is based on my understanding of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and the grace imparted to folks who were in need when the logic of the Law might have led to a perfectly reasonable conclusion that one should not heal on the Sabbath.

    5. The epilogue of the book contains a lengthy story about a church's process in choosing to fence in its property. Please share your reactions.

    I think the story furthers the metaphor of the book and makes a good ending story. However, it seems to me that the issue of the actual fence became a focus on non-essentials for a community that supposedly had a clear identity in relation to their context as a church that was a sanctuary for hundreds of homeless. In the end of the story, it is clear that the fence enables the community to continue living their identity providing a boundary that also creates the space for hospitality.

    6. Westerhoff calls on Jesus' self-description as a "narrow gate" in support of her thesis that our boundaries must be clear. Where do you think Jesus would draw his lines?

    I think Jesus' boundaries are probably wider than most of ours. I do not think most of us are comfortable with the extravagant hospitality of God's grace. I'm not sure how to put that up against the metaphor of the narrow gate. I have heard the "narrow gate" used in ways that mean "you have to believe like we do in order to get in" but that doesn't match Jesus healing on the Sabbath.

    7. In Chapter 5, Westerhoff refers us to the baptismal covenant as a means to test our boundaries. Does this feel like a helpful tool?

    I appreciated the way she used the liturgy of baptism to frame the issue of boundaries. But I see as it helpful only for those with liturgical foundations. I grew up in a church that did not use set liturgy. The questions she addresses would have been considered irrelevant in that tradition.

    8. Westerhoff admits that others are better-suited than she to certain practices of hospitality. How do you strive to *be* a neighbor in your own neighborhood? What are the challenges of being a neighbor?

    I pastor an urban church. We struggle with the boundaries of being a good neighbor. Sometimes we are more motivated by fear and self-preservation than by hospitality in the name of Christ.

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  34. I was trying to "beat the deadline" for the drawing and didn't get everything copied. My response is also posted on my blog.

    Let me say that overall, I found myself wanting more. I kept waiting for more to develop but it didn't. I liked the stories and followed her premise but felt that something was missing.

    That being the case, I do think that this book could very well be a nice introduction (not too threatening) to hospitality for some of my laity.

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  35. I have enjoyed reading the discussion from many points of views and angles.

    I will share part of a Eucharist liturgy that I found particularly meaningful while attending seminary. This was in a PCUSA church and is also sometimes used at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church.

    The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving was the starting of the liturgy. We sang the responses and then there was a section about breaking the bread for the earth, for those who have no bread to break, and for our own brokeness, and then this phrase.

    We break this bread for those who journey the way of the Hindus, for those who follow the path of the Buddha, for our sisters and brothers of Islam, for the Jewish People from whom we come, and for all those who walk the way of faith. ***

    This church was situated in a county with many, many faiths and interfaith dialogue was part of the culture. I love the image of a global context, that regardless of our faiths, there are places where we can come together to celebrate and to share our brokeness. Liturgy like this helps me to continue to expand my worldview and keeps me from wearing blinders.

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  36. Ahhh,Deb,I would certainly be careful ...no, I simply would not... use the word "mere" in relation to "symbol". To do so puts one in danger of dismissing the veracity and power of sacrament by definition.

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  37. I put the numbers into the random number generator at Psychic Science and got the number 3. So Mary Beth was the number 3 person.

    Congratulations Mary Beth!

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  38. I have come to this discussion very late but so glad I did -- I have learned a lot.

    I have belonged to two churches, one United Methodist and the other PC(USA). AS far as I can recollect, in both the invitation to communion has always been emphatically "for all." In fact, the first time I ever heard a discussion on limiting communion to baptized Christians in a Protestant context and thereby discovered that it was an issue was this past summer. (Context: a pastor saying that she would not so limit it.) I realize now that I see the sacraments in the context of the "extravagant hospitality" that the Vicar of Hogesmeade referenes.

    I have taken communion in Roman Catholic settings in which a specific invitation to all has been issued. I have found those experiences to be times of great joy, offering a sense of healing of the community of faith.

    As someone who came to a understanding of the power and beauty of the sacraments late in life, it makes me almost inexpressibly sad to read of communion being denied to people on the basis of their not having been baptized into the Chritsian faith.

    PS, I love the liturgy you describe.

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  39. I think that question of "denying" Eucharist is mis-phrased, and I think that how one thinks about this will be affected as someone else mentioned by one's understanding of the sacrament. So it will be less an issue in some denominations than others.

    I am at work now and don't have time to reference the articles, but in Anglican Theological Review in 2004-05 there were articles by Jim Farwell and Kathryn Tanner about on both sides of the "communion without baptism" issue. I recommend them to anyone interested in this.

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  41. Well, dog my cats. I didn't get back to comment yesterday and I STILL won!?

    So I'd better jolly well comment, right?

    Go over to my place, where I did so. It's a bit ranty, I'll warn you in advance. :)

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  42. And now, reading the other comments...

    ps, I love that liturgy. Love.It.

    Gannet Girl, wow. That's not been my experience, to be welcomed to Eucharist in an RC setting. I long for that. I was president of a Pax Christi chapter in grad school and it hurt me much that when we attended Mass together, I was not welcomed.

    (Of course, the beauty of RG to me is to see outside my experience.)

    I've heard those of you who've been to seminary mention "boundary training," something which, ironically enough, I am seeking to create on my own in therapy! Seems to me this is a basic skill for healthy living, that is not getting taught (along with mandatory pre-pregnancy parenting courses...) ;)

    Cathy...you are right on. I think that is crucial for your 9 year old, and (IMHO again) those rules were made to be bent for just such a situation. I'm grateful that your church folks see it that way. Grace upon grace.

    Thanks to all who have participated!

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  43. I got overexcited, despite not having read the book, and added some thoughts

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  44. I continue to be appreciative of all your comments and wish I had the gift for being more articulate in a little box.

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  45. I think the discussion has been excellent with the book - I have learned ALOT!

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  46. I haven't read the book and coming from a very low-church background most of this discussion is very new to me. It's strange how as church cultures differ so the the issues they have to wrestle with. I've never been in a church that baptized infants so the whole stillborn baptism thing took me by surprise. As for communion, I grew up in traditions that stated only those who are saved can take communion. It was up to each person to decide to take it as the plates were passed, but it was clear that it was for believers only. In our church now, we invite anyone who wants to affirm Christ (whatever that means to them) to participate.

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  47. loved this discussion . thanks all

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