Recovering Craftsmanship in Christian Hospitality

By R.J. March on May 19, 2015

A group of young men (all apparently named Dude) sat in a circle on the airport carpeting and eagerly discussed their plans for a trip to Europe.

The group of plaid-clad, bearded, craft-beer enthusiasts was headed overseas not for hip bars in Berlin or the pubs of London. As it turns out, they traveled exclusively in search of French and Belgian monasteries.

Monks, even in today’s modernized beer industry, are still considered to be the master brewers.

Trappist monks in particular make some of the finest beer in the world – Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, and La Trappe, to name a few. These monks are the inspiration of celebrated breweries like New Belgium, Unibroue, and Ommegang.

The monks’ high quality of craftsmanship and their artisanal attention to detail have had a great influence far outside the monastery walls.

But what separates their beer from most is that it is not sold for profit.

Not that making a profit is wrong, but these monks want to emphasize that their labor is for the delight of others and the glory of God.

Craftsmanship and Hospitality: Two Peas in a Pod

I hope those dudes got to see the monks’ worship of God (rather than a worship of the craft itself) and I hope they experienced excellent hospitality in the service of all (not just those who could pay them handsomely for it).

How would they have comprehended all that from drinking in a monastery?

Because historically, craftsmanship and hospitality were two peas in a pod. And to stretch the analogy, the pod was the Christian, monastic church.

The Need for Genuine Hospitality

The Medieval monastery in many ways functioned as a mission outpost to the surrounding region. In the midst of hostile territory, it was a place of safety and education.

A place of “kind welcome, laden table, and warm beds,” as Greg Thompson recently put it at a conference that Serge sponsored. The monastery was the place you go in crisis or in leisure.

All were welcome. Hospitality was beautifully practiced.

Today, the novelty of magazines like Kinfolk (and others like it) hints that there is a void of hospitality in our culture. Hospitality is a lost art in the modern hustle.

And the restless pursuit of rest results in activities like, well, studying Kinfolk’s hosting ideas instead of actually having people over!

Kinfolk may facilitate beautiful gatherings but all too often it serves to sell a lifestyle brand to high-end markets. This makes the movement simultaneously exciting and troubling. It is like visiting Chicago’s Ralph Lauren “mansion,” a gorgeous home and a surprising oasis from the crowded Magnificent Mile.

While beautifully crafted, the Ralph Lauren “mansion” is actually a store and fundamentally a place to shop. You will feel welcome if you have money and unwelcome if you don’t. This is not real hospitality.

There remains a great need and unsatisfied longing for genuine hospitality.

The Christian Church, once famous for its careful craftsmanship, which served its generous hospitality, is no longer looked to as a leader in this area. Only a small piece of this legacy is known today among niche craft beer brewers.

Greg Thompson says it well –

“The Christian Church must recover its vocation of hospitality. Not as a folksy ethos. Not just as artisanal practices of self-actualization in an industrialized world. But as a definitional theological conviction about the meaning of life in the world. The deliberate recovery of a foundational theology of hospitality is the greatest task before the missionary church in the secular west.”


Refining Our Skills

In the coming weeks, we will take a look at Serge staff who are refining their skills in the service of hospitality.

One Serge missionary finds creative expression in baking pastries – she shares her passion and trains others to bake so they can escape sex slavery in South Asia.

Another Serge missionary has helped to transform Dublin through the Arts.

And finally, we will see how a musician in Vienna has learned the importance of presence in ministry.

The world over, Serge staff are this very minute opening their homes and lives to the people they serve, reminding the world that God is a yearning host who wants to fill his table (Luke 14:15-24) and we, with all of the Church, are sent to gather his guests to come to the table.

If the monks have taught us anything, we can guess that fine beer will be there.






Photo credit: Brewery at Abbey Notre Dame de Saint Remy, Rochefort. Paul Cooper, Rex Features.

R.J. March

About R.J. March

R.J. studied Philosophy at Furman University and focused his research on the ethics of globalization and minority perspective. He has integrated this research with service on Serge teams in Ireland, London, and Southeast Asia. R.J. is interested in how technology shapes community and has worked as the Digital Media Specialist for Serge and the Director of Communication for Global Counseling Network. You can find his other (digital) handiwork at R.J. holds an M.Div. from Covenant Seminary. R.J. and his wife Carolyn and their two children reside in Seattle where R.J. is the Assistant Pastor of All Souls Church of Seattle.