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Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition Paperback – August 3, 1999
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"In her beautiful book Making Room, Christine Pohl . . . illustrates both in content and in format the profound meaning of hospitality in Christian life. . . Using her own pastoral experience and that of others, Pohl deals realistically with the fragility of hospitality in its limits, boundaries, and temptations. . . Pohl encourages readers to engage in thoughtful reflection on how important it is to adopt the attitude of the early Christians toward all people in our world."
"Pohl elegantly, accessibly introduces the history of Christian hospitality and its potential for transforming contemporary Christian practice. . . The book appeals not only to readers interested in contemporary Christianity and its historical development but also to those interested more generally in the margins of society and the commercialization of hospitality and welfare."
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"Casual readers beware: Making Room is guaranteed to challenge even the most complacent Christian. You are not likely to walk away from this book unchanged."
"[Pohl] effectively weaves biblical insight, historical precedent, and practical wisdom, exploring how concern for strangers has been normative from ancient times. To revitalize this 'moral dimension,' Pohl challenges readers to move beyond their safety of hosting people within their familiar social or economic world. While contemporary examples focus on intentional Christian communities -- such as L'Abri or the Catholic Worker -- the book has rich implications for house- or church-based ministry. Ultimately, readers from any church background will learn that as they make room for others in their homes, more room will become available to them to receive God's blessings."
"Making Room is a welcome reminder that as God's people we are all called to be hospitable to others, whether or not we have what some call 'the gift of hospitality.' The book would most appeal to those desiring to make a difference in the lives of others through hospitality."
"Christine Pohl addresses a surprisingly undiscovered topic in Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Far from a Martha Stewart handbook for Christians, Pohl's work focuses on the nitty-gritty of forging community hospitality, as evidenced in such organizations as The Catholic Worker, L'Abri and The Open Door. Hospitality, she writes, should be more about welcoming strangers than friends and family."
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I found this book a to be real eye-opening work that has forced me to reconsider many of the ways I interact with those I come in contact with. As a college professor I have begun to look at my students as "aliens and strangers" within the culture of higher education and to think about what hospitality might look like in that context. This is the power the book has for the reader in my mind. It points out what true hospitality is and the power it has in a disconnected and disillusioned world and then challenges the faithful reader to examine how to live out the potential it has. I strongly recommend this book for those seeking to live an intentional or missional faith.
1. Remembering our Heritage
2. Reconsidering the Tradition
3. Recovering the Practice
In Part 1, Pohl noted that "for the most part, the term 'hospitality' has lost its moral dimension" (p. 4). In essence, "hospitality was a qualification for leadership in the early Christian communities" (p. 5). Pohl lists some critical and poignant questions (see pp. 14, 15) such as how did hospitality get lost, what makes it potentially subversive, why is it easily distorted, etc.
Part 2 was my favorite and was very thought provoking especially Ch4 Hospitality, Dignity, and the Power of Recognition. "Especially when the larger society disregards or dishonors certain persons, small acts of respect and welcome are potent far beyond themselves. . . . Recognition involves respecting the dignity and equal worth of every person and valuing their contributions" (p. 61). Pohl goes on to explore what it means to 'recognize' someone who is a stranger. She explored the notion of being a stranger, the roles of host/guest, risks associated with being a host, 'welcome' as a construct and the connection between marginality and hospitality.
Part 3 describes limits, boundaries, and temptations - topics often not discussed in relation to hospitality. Discussed are things like practical limits (resources, energy, people, etc.), the intersection of identity, openness, and the connection to a physical place. Pohl noted, "The community will be transformed by the people it welcomes" (p. 141). I wanted to read more of her thinking. Pohl discussed a potential dark side of hospitality - the host using hospitality to gain advantage, the guest abusing the host's generosity. A favorite part of this section was Characteristics of Hospitable Places. I was reminded of placemaking ([...]) and Oldenburg's (2001) discussion of the importance of place.
Who might be interested in this? People who are interested in:
* Food, food practices (Pohl emphasizes the centrality of food)
* Hospitality as a practice
* Ethic of care - Pohl posits hospitality as a 'way of being' an orientation towards the other reminiscent of care ethics
* Christian planners, community developers
* Placemaking - the importance of physical space in creating a welcoming environment
* Those interested in applied ethics
* Those simply tired of a rhetoric that posits 'difference' against some ideal and are seeking alternative, more respectful ways of being together
Oldenburg, R. (2001). Celebrating the third place: Inspiring stories about the "great good places" at the heart of our communities. New York: Marlowe & Co.