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Service versus hospitality: why we should care about the difference

Service versus hospitality: why we should care about the difference

Rev. Najla Kassab, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

27 August 2018

Serving others is something many faith communities put as a priority. But being hospitable to others puts service on a whole new level. In remarks at a youth symposium on 23 August at the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam, Rev. Najla Kassab, president of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, reflected on “Hospitality on a Pilgrim’s Way of Justice and Peace.”

The symposium was part of special events celebrating the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches.

When we talk about hospitality, it is thinking about others and how they feel, reflected Kassab. “In service we are interested in what we learned, while in hospitality we are concerned with how they feel,” said Kassab. “Hospitality is about them, not us.”

Unfortunately, we can render service while failing to make people feel happy, respected and dignified. “Hospitality is to take the risk in stepping into a new space, and I believe this is the same risk that Jesus took as he was incarnated in our humanity,” said Kassab. “Hospitality is not mere actions, as you open a soup kitchen, or café for refugees, give them food and housing—or rushing from one task to another, but rather with what spirit we do hospitality, affects the impact of hospitality.”

Hospitality is not an act of pity but is rooted in our faith, continued Kassab. “It is not a troubled experience but rather sitting at the feet of the Lord and experiencing the new space where God shapes us. Unless we are ready to cross to a new space we do not grow as Christians.”

This is why many young people look at the church as monotonous and boring, Kassab concluded. “Unless you discover a new space to live your faith, you will end up doing the regular, the service, but not hospitality,” said Kassab. “We are on a pilgrimage where we hope to live peace and justice. Unless we live hospitality we will never be on the right road; on a journey that will move us from fear to friendship.”

Symposium

Full speech of Rev. Najla Kassab, "Hospitality on a Pilgrim’s Way of Justice and Peace"

Pilgrims gather from far and wide to celebrate 70 years of WCC (WCC press release of 23 August 2018)

Walk of Peace draws hopeful - and young - crowd in Amsterdam (WCC press release of 23 August 2018)

“Love will find a way” (WCC press release of 23 August 2018)

70 years in, youth pilgrimage offers room for new visions (WCC press release of 22 August 2018)