A Guide to Working with Our Neighbors

Grand Blanc United Methodist ChurchRadical hospitality, a term that is specific to the United Methodist Church (UMC), means that when you invite people into your church home you go that extra mile to welcome them and make them feel comfortable, accepted, valued, and not judged. At a recent multi-faith event at the Grand Blanc United Methodist Church, that meant the good plates, cloth tablecloths, and replacing religious symbols that might make others uncomfortable with more universal symbols like prayer hands and angels.

“We pulled out all the stops,” says Interfaith minister, Laurie Del Pino.

The event, which included guests from many of the area’s diverse faiths, was the culmination of a six-week session based on a study guide created by the UMC Detroit Conference Committee on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships. The study guide, titled Guide to Multi-Faith Collaboration: Living, Working, and Serving Together, was created to help Christians of all denominations welcome friends of other denominations and faiths into their churches.

“This is a six-week study guide that is for groups that are in an area that is very diverse and they want to include other people in projects in their community, like Habitat for Humanity,” says Del Pino, who co-created the guide, ““The goal is to lay a loving and solid foundation for working together successfully in the community. It is geared toward church members becoming a group that serves in their local community. Relationship building is part of it, but it’s geared toward action. We want to act in the community. We want to serve in the community.”

The guide starts with the basics and leads people up to being able to create and welcome others into a radical hospitality sacred space. The topics are:

Week 1: Ecumenical, Interfaith and Interreligious – Understanding

Week 2: Respecting and Honoring Others: Holy Conferencing

Week 3: Women of Wisdom: Misconceptions of Other Faiths

Week 4: Forming Relationships and Radical Hospitality – Life Remodeled

Week 5: Welcoming our other faith group neighbors. Planning for Radical Hospitality

Week 6: Host Multi-Faith Pot Luck Gathering. Breaking bread, sharing stories, forming relationships and hatching plans. Radical Listening.

“We talk about where we are as individuals along the continuum of social sensitivity,” says Del Pino, “breaking down barriers that say ‘my group is the only way of doing things – we have the secret. We have cornered the market.’ It’s breaking down all those barriers. There are other groups in the community that have the same good intentions. The study guide is about getting people to the work as equals.”

By completing the course, Del Pino says, the GBUMC group was well-prepared to exemplify Radical Hospitality and Holy Conferencing (also called Radical Listening), which is holding sacred space and listening, the two keys to reaching the goals of the course.

They prepared for Holy Conferencing at the pot luck by preparing and sharing a list of questions for participants to ask. The idea, says Del Pino, is to “listen to understand, without thinking about what we’re going to say back, to have a shift in your pre-conceived notions, just listening to understand. I was stunned at how well they did. No one was talking about their agenda or their church. They were really listening. They get to the point where they realize that they have more in common than not in common.”

The Study guide, which can be facilitated by lay people, is for any Christian group (not necessarily UMC) who wants to work with other religions with the end goal of serving in their area. It will soon be available on Amazon. In the meantime, congregations who are interested in implementing the study guide can contact Rodney Gasaway at rodney@newburgumc.org.