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Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

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Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today. Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to conte Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today. Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to contemporary Christian communities -- the Catholic Worker, L'Abri, L'Arche, and others -- this book shows how understanding the key features of hospitality can better equip us to faithfully carry out the practical call of the gospel.


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Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today. Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to conte Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today. Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to contemporary Christian communities -- the Catholic Worker, L'Abri, L'Arche, and others -- this book shows how understanding the key features of hospitality can better equip us to faithfully carry out the practical call of the gospel.

30 review for Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    loved, loved this book. Not about making cookies and having a clean home (nothing wrong with cookies, btw) but about making room in your life for the marginalized and stranger. Doesn't offer too many practical solutions but by reviewing the historical precedents of hospitality in the church, challenges our current notions of private space, etc. loved, loved this book. Not about making cookies and having a clean home (nothing wrong with cookies, btw) but about making room in your life for the marginalized and stranger. Doesn't offer too many practical solutions but by reviewing the historical precedents of hospitality in the church, challenges our current notions of private space, etc.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Kopec Barkley

    A challenging look at true hospitality. It covers what the Scriptures and Jesus teach us about hospitality, how social and economic changes have changed what hospitality has meant over the centuries, and practical challenges that we encounter today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    Really, really good. I appreciate how well researched this book is (the author often quotes Luther, Calvin, Chrysostom, and Benedict), which makes it interesting. Note: Rosaria Butterfield quotes Making Room, by C.D. Pohl in her own book, so I ordered it and read it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This reads like a doctoral dissertation. While I learned some things from it, it is repetitive, overly scholarly, & barely inspirational - what challenges the subject matter does pose are undermined by the intellectual scrutiny the author uses to over-examine such challenges.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This was super challenging as well as inspiring. So much stretching to figure out how to welcome people in joyful and sustainable ways. And then to receive from them. Communities are vital to sustaining these practices and the idea of welcome is crucial to communicating value to humans.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Before I read this book last year, I thought that "hospitality" meant treating people nice when they came over to visit. Pohl opened my mind to the history of true Christian hospitality and its centrality in both Scripture and the early Christian church. She also details why the practice and even the definition of the word have gotten confused over church history. In the process of examining what historical and current Christian movements have done to recover the practice of hospitality, she beg Before I read this book last year, I thought that "hospitality" meant treating people nice when they came over to visit. Pohl opened my mind to the history of true Christian hospitality and its centrality in both Scripture and the early Christian church. She also details why the practice and even the definition of the word have gotten confused over church history. In the process of examining what historical and current Christian movements have done to recover the practice of hospitality, she begins to tackle the theological and practical questions of how we are to best live out this form of radical love for our friends, neighbors, and strangers passing on their way. It is a very well-written book. More than that, if you want it to be, it will be a life-changing book. Pohl doesn't provide concrete answers to every difficulty in practicing concrete Christian hospitality in our world (that would require several additional books, and I recommend Pohl and Heuertz's "Friendship at the Margins" for starters), but she does give us a look into the relevant questions and challenges us to explore further. If you take this book seriously and try to live out this kind of hospitality in your life, I believe you will grow closer to the Kingdom of God.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Becky Hintz

    This book is a historical analysis of the place and practice of hospitality in the broadly-defined Christian Church. It looks at how hospitality has changed in each era of church history, and how those changes have helped or hindered the biblical goals of hospitality. This is not a how-to book, so those looking for practical hostessing tips should look elsewhere. It is a book for those who want to think deeply about hospitality, who want to examine our cultural practice through a wider historica This book is a historical analysis of the place and practice of hospitality in the broadly-defined Christian Church. It looks at how hospitality has changed in each era of church history, and how those changes have helped or hindered the biblical goals of hospitality. This is not a how-to book, so those looking for practical hostessing tips should look elsewhere. It is a book for those who want to think deeply about hospitality, who want to examine our cultural practice through a wider historical lens in order to identify our successes and failures. Though often focusing on serious (full-time) practitioners of hospitality, the author also addresses the average church, the average Christian household, with a realistic assessment of both our limitations and opportunities. An excellent read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    This book is not a page-turner, but is relatively easy to digest and offers a compelling exploration of and argument for hospitality as a Christian tradition. In many ways, I was not surprised to read and learn about hospitality in terms of providing welcome and care for the stranger, and yet I so often think of hospitality as inviting friends over for dinner. Pohl makes clear that entertaining friends is not outside the realm of hospitality, but that the Christian tradition of hospitality is so This book is not a page-turner, but is relatively easy to digest and offers a compelling exploration of and argument for hospitality as a Christian tradition. In many ways, I was not surprised to read and learn about hospitality in terms of providing welcome and care for the stranger, and yet I so often think of hospitality as inviting friends over for dinner. Pohl makes clear that entertaining friends is not outside the realm of hospitality, but that the Christian tradition of hospitality is so much richer and so much riskier. I was challenged by this book to start thinking about how I can create more space in my life to interact with strangers (those who are poor, without a place or community of support) and invite them to share in the life of our home.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    We have always practiced hospitality but the Holy Spirit is using this book to help guide us in broadening that circle of welcome to strangers. I'm still not sure exactly how to do that, even after reading the book, but my heart is totally there. Very excited about what God has been changing in our lives and how this book will help us grow even more. We have always practiced hospitality but the Holy Spirit is using this book to help guide us in broadening that circle of welcome to strangers. I'm still not sure exactly how to do that, even after reading the book, but my heart is totally there. Very excited about what God has been changing in our lives and how this book will help us grow even more.

  10. 4 out of 5

    brooke sellers

    so far so good. this is is being read by our entire community as we explore how to practice hospitality to our neighbors in a way that pleases God, blesses others, and is sustainable. it's a challenging and exciting set of questions to wrestle with... even more so when put into practice! so far so good. this is is being read by our entire community as we explore how to practice hospitality to our neighbors in a way that pleases God, blesses others, and is sustainable. it's a challenging and exciting set of questions to wrestle with... even more so when put into practice!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cara

    Killing me slowly. This book could have been about a chapter long.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Overall a good book on the history of hospitality and its role within the Christian faith. It is a more academic read than Rosaria Butterfield's book on hospitality, and I preferred her book because it felt less repetitive and more personal than this book. A lot of the chapters said the same thing just in different ways. It was informative and gave some good advice on how to reduce risks while showing hospitality, but it didn't seem to give as a deep a theological underpinning for hospitality as Overall a good book on the history of hospitality and its role within the Christian faith. It is a more academic read than Rosaria Butterfield's book on hospitality, and I preferred her book because it felt less repetitive and more personal than this book. A lot of the chapters said the same thing just in different ways. It was informative and gave some good advice on how to reduce risks while showing hospitality, but it didn't seem to give as a deep a theological underpinning for hospitality as Butterfield's book even though this one reads more academically than hers. I'd say it's a good companion book to read for the history of hospitality and how our understanding of the word has changed to go along with Butterfield's book The Gospel Comes With A House Key.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike E.

    This book written in 1999 deals with Christian hospitality from all the angles--historical, theological, practical, cultural, etc. The author is a believer, scholar, and serious practitioner of hospitality. This book will challenge and inform any Christian--written with competency and accessibility. I read most of this book while preparing for a sermon that I preached on 27 April 2014. That sermon should appear on this web site, soon: http://www.cornerstonecc.org QUOTES: Indeed, Christian believers This book written in 1999 deals with Christian hospitality from all the angles--historical, theological, practical, cultural, etc. The author is a believer, scholar, and serious practitioner of hospitality. This book will challenge and inform any Christian--written with competency and accessibility. I read most of this book while preparing for a sermon that I preached on 27 April 2014. That sermon should appear on this web site, soon: http://www.cornerstonecc.org QUOTES: Indeed, Christian believers were to regard hospitality to strangers as a fundamental expression of the gospel. (5) Practicing hospitality always involves risk and the possibility of failure, but there is greater risk and loss in neglecting hospitality. Hospitality, because it was such a fundamental human practice, always included family, friends, and influential contacts. The distinctive Christian contribution was the emphasis on including the poor and neediest, the ones who could not return the favor (6). Hospitality has an important, even essential, place in our fractured, individualistic, results-oriented society (9). "Hospitality is so necessary in bishops that if any are found lacking in it the law forbids them to be ordained." ["Decretum Gratiani," 1150 A.D.] "We should not regard what a man is and what he deserves: but we should go higher – that it is God who has placed us in the world for such a purpose that we be united and joined together. He has impressed his image in us and has given us a common nature, which should incite us to providing one for the other. The man who wishes to exempt himself from providing for his neighbors should face himself and declare that he no longer wishes to be a man, for as long as we are human creatures we must contemplate as in a mirror our face in those who are poor, despised, exhausted, who groan under their burdens . ." [Corpus Reformatorum: Joannis Calvini Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia] "A poor wretch cries to me for alms: I look and see him covered with dirt and rags. But through these I see one that has an immortal spirit, made to know and love and dwell with God to eternity: I honor him for his Creator's sake. I see through all these rags that he is purpled over with the blood of Christ. I love him for the sake of his Redeemer. The courtesy therefore which I feel and show toward him is a mixture of the honor and love which I bear to the offspring of God, the purchase of his Son's blood, and the candidate for immortality. This courtesy let us feel and show toward all men; and we shall please all men to their edification. [John Wesley, Works of John Wesley, vol. 3; sermon 100 "On Pleasing All Men."] By how much the brother may be least, so much the more does Christ come to thee through him. [Chrysostom, Homily 45] If Christ forgave and healed those who had injured Him and welcomed into paradise those who had scorned Him, how could Christians neglect even a starving murderer, Chrysostom wondered. (70) In commenting on Romans 12:13, he noted that the phrase "given to hospitality" suggests "not waiting for those that shall ask for it… but to run to them, and be given to finding them." (70) Sitting down at the same table meant becoming friends with them, creating a family. It was a way of life absolutely opposed to the values of a competitive, hierarchical society in which the weak are pushed aside. [Jean Vanier, The Heart of L'Arche: A Spirituality for Every Day, 29] Justice is important, but supper is essential. [Ed Loring, Open Door Community, Atlanta, GA] One great reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is that one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know: they keep out of the way of knowing it – and then plead their voluntary ignorance as an excuse for their hardness of heart. [John Wesley, Sermon 98, "On Visiting the Sick"] Sometimes we describe our nation as a society of relative strangers – millions of people minimally attached to home and community, highly mobile, independently pursuing our own projects, contentedly leaving one another alone to pursue our own tasks. (89) A steady exposure to distant human need that is beyond our personal response can gradually inoculate us against particular action. . . Isolation from local need, and overexposure to overwhelming but distant need, make our responses to strangers uncertain and tentative at best. We need to find or create contemporary equivalents of the city gate, community rituals, and small group meetings in which we can build preliminary relations with strangers. (97) Jesus, the most desired guest, comes in the form of the vulnerable stranger. The possibility that hosts are welcoming Jesus can overcome resistance and fear. (97) There is a complex dance between recognizing our own need, ministering to those in need, and recognizing their ministry to us. The helper must also be able to receive –especially from those who look as if they have little to offer. (119) Every house should have a "Christ room" for a brother who is in need. (St. Jerome) People for whom hospitality is a disposition and a habit are less afraid of the risks associated with caring for strangers than they are of the possibility of cutting themselves off from the needs of strangers. (176)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    3.5 stars This is a broad look at hospitality, and addresses many important ideas. The most profound to me is the humility required to make the guest more human. I ranked it 3.5 stars because I feel like many ideas were restated coming from so many different directions- it took nearly 200 pages to write would could have probably been stated in 50. I have just started The Gospel Comes With A House Key, and I think it will be much more enriching. It seems like in an effort to totally explore all t 3.5 stars This is a broad look at hospitality, and addresses many important ideas. The most profound to me is the humility required to make the guest more human. I ranked it 3.5 stars because I feel like many ideas were restated coming from so many different directions- it took nearly 200 pages to write would could have probably been stated in 50. I have just started The Gospel Comes With A House Key, and I think it will be much more enriching. It seems like in an effort to totally explore all the permutations of hospitality, this book talks in circles a lot.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen (Living Unabridged)

    Fantastic and well researched. My only regret reading this is that Jean Vanier has been so discredited since this title's publication (1999). I found myself skimming every time he was mentioned or quoted. That problem aside (which is hardly the author's fault), this is a terrific resource and quotes from within filled many pages of my commonplace book. Fantastic and well researched. My only regret reading this is that Jean Vanier has been so discredited since this title's publication (1999). I found myself skimming every time he was mentioned or quoted. That problem aside (which is hardly the author's fault), this is a terrific resource and quotes from within filled many pages of my commonplace book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Great read on the history of and reclaiming the practice of Christian hospitality. I particularly like how the author draws historically on a variety of traditions (early church, Catholic, Calvin, Wesley) to make her points.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Blythe

    Excellent book on the Christian tradition, history, and call to hospitality. Dense with tons of wisdom, a must-read for anyone wanting to learn about the hows and whys of Christian hospitality.

  18. 5 out of 5

    KentValerie Laws

    If you are looking for an academic book on the history of Christian hospitality then I would say this is a 5 star book. If you are looking for a light read with how to's on Christian hospitality then I would say this book is a 3 star book. So I gave it 4 stars not knowing what I was diving into. It turned out to be super informative and eye opening. If you are looking for an academic book on the history of Christian hospitality then I would say this is a 5 star book. If you are looking for a light read with how to's on Christian hospitality then I would say this book is a 3 star book. So I gave it 4 stars not knowing what I was diving into. It turned out to be super informative and eye opening.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    “Making Room” is a simply written but challenging book about the meaning of hospitality and the Christian imperative to practice it. It is often inspiring and its implications are nothing short of radical. Recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marlise

    This books speaks to the deepest parts of my heart. So much of who I was created to be and do centers around the spirit of hospitality. This book enriched my heart and has spurred me to dig deeper into opening my home, reaching into my community, and most especially opening my heart more to those who are marginalized in our society. I loved this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    A.J. Mendoza

    The reading level for this book verges on a college level. Pohl does a beautifully thorough job of looking at both ancient and contemporary voices on the topic of hospitality. Quickly she redefines the western understanding of hospitality and launches into a defense for that definition and the practices and boundaries that come with being hospitable to strangers (another term she will define). In God's timing, I just so happened to be hosting a friend who was recently kicked out of his apartment The reading level for this book verges on a college level. Pohl does a beautifully thorough job of looking at both ancient and contemporary voices on the topic of hospitality. Quickly she redefines the western understanding of hospitality and launches into a defense for that definition and the practices and boundaries that come with being hospitable to strangers (another term she will define). In God's timing, I just so happened to be hosting a friend who was recently kicked out of his apartment. To be reading this book while interacting with this person in need was both humbling and enlightening. Not only did I get to practice what this book preaches, but I was also able to realize how difficult it is to be truly hospitable and how much I need maturation in this area. Pohl does a wonderful job of equipping her reader with models to follow and concepts to endorse. I would recommend this to any believer wanting to strengthen their Christian commitment, seeing as how hospitality is a Christian expectation.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Denise Huff

    It had some really great, thought-provoking information. It reads more like a textbook than a practical treatise on recovering the practice of hospitality, and there were many themes that were repeated several times in the book. It's not a quick read or something to digest in a couple of sittings. It does spur some great discussions and encourages us to look at hospitality in a Biblical way that reaches the aliens and strangers and not something that we view as entertaining friends. It had some really great, thought-provoking information. It reads more like a textbook than a practical treatise on recovering the practice of hospitality, and there were many themes that were repeated several times in the book. It's not a quick read or something to digest in a couple of sittings. It does spur some great discussions and encourages us to look at hospitality in a Biblical way that reaches the aliens and strangers and not something that we view as entertaining friends.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Milan Homola

    This is a book for the EXTREME PRACTITIONER. This is not for the casual reader. This doesn't mean it is packed with heavy theology...actually quite the opposite. But there is no point to read this book unless you recognize that God calls us to a life of servant hospitality. I challenge you to read it....you will be stretched. This is a book for the EXTREME PRACTITIONER. This is not for the casual reader. This doesn't mean it is packed with heavy theology...actually quite the opposite. But there is no point to read this book unless you recognize that God calls us to a life of servant hospitality. I challenge you to read it....you will be stretched.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Annie Rim

    Hospitality is hard and challenging. We live in a society that prefers neat and tidy dinner parties over messy invitations to share space and values. Christine Pohl reminds her readers of the history of hospitality, how we've arrived at a more isolated time in history, and practical ways to remedy our exclusive circles. Hospitality is hard and challenging. We live in a society that prefers neat and tidy dinner parties over messy invitations to share space and values. Christine Pohl reminds her readers of the history of hospitality, how we've arrived at a more isolated time in history, and practical ways to remedy our exclusive circles.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    Wonderful overview of Christian hospitality as practiced through the centuries which is based love for the hurting not entertainment for the privileged.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andy Stager

    This is the best book I've read in 2013. I hope we can get Dr Pohl on the Gospel Neighboring podcast. This is the best book I've read in 2013. I hope we can get Dr Pohl on the Gospel Neighboring podcast.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    This book is now a staple on my bookshelf! I will absolutely be coming back to this book over and over again for its wisdom.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel B

    "To provide significant household-based hospitality, someone has to be home." p 58 I love this book! I read it for the first time in junior high or high school, and though I liked it then, parts of it were a bit above my comprehension level. Reading it again while in a very different place in life was even better. Pohl describes the history of hospitality, particularly in the Church, and focuses on true hospitality, which is a welcoming of the stranger versus entertaining friends or family. She e "To provide significant household-based hospitality, someone has to be home." p 58 I love this book! I read it for the first time in junior high or high school, and though I liked it then, parts of it were a bit above my comprehension level. Reading it again while in a very different place in life was even better. Pohl describes the history of hospitality, particularly in the Church, and focuses on true hospitality, which is a welcoming of the stranger versus entertaining friends or family. She explores how the meaning/perception of hospitality changed over the years and became disconnected from its original manifestation of personal welcome of unknown strangers, situated within a particular community. The author stresses that hospitality is about more than food, drink, and a place to sleep. It's about a place of belonging; human connections. She talks about the great need for humility on the part of hosts in order to keep from further grieving the stranger.The most transformative expressions of hospitality, both historically and in our own time, are associated with hosts who are liminal, marginal, or at the lower end of the social order. Theses hosts are essentially threshold or bridge people, connected in some ways to the larger society but distinct from it either in actual social situation or in self-imposed distance. Without these crucial dimensions of marginality and liminality, the relations between hosts and guests often serve the more conservative function of reinforcing existing social relations and status hierarchies. pp 106-107She also delves into what a return to biblical hospitality could look like, focusing on 8 intentional Christian communities, including the famous L'Abri Fellowship, L'Arche, and The Catholic Worker Movement. This is not a fluffy book; there are no recipes here for readers to prepare; there are no housecleaning tips. This is a thought-provoking read that will hopefully lead readers to action, but Pohl leaves readers in the hands of the Holy Spirit for detailed instructions.Many persons who are not valued by the larger community are essentially invisible to it. When people are socially invisible, their needs and concerns are not acknowledged and no one even notices the injustices they suffer. Hospitality can begin a journey toward visibility and respect." p 62

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Hospitality as a practice has shifted with the culture over the years; but the original discipline is key to welcoming the stranger as a representation of Kingdom. *** Making Room was a mind-exploding review of Christian Hospitality as a Spiritual Practice. I feel as though it's going to be a helpful resource for quite some time. I especially appreciated the way the author blended history and theology to show how hospitality as been practiced in the past and to hold that up against how hospitality Hospitality as a practice has shifted with the culture over the years; but the original discipline is key to welcoming the stranger as a representation of Kingdom. *** Making Room was a mind-exploding review of Christian Hospitality as a Spiritual Practice. I feel as though it's going to be a helpful resource for quite some time. I especially appreciated the way the author blended history and theology to show how hospitality as been practiced in the past and to hold that up against how hospitality can make a way for communities of meaning now and into the future.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lewton

    I found this book to be refreshing. Hospitality is such a counter cultural idea where I live, where we go about our busy lives and keep our doors locked. There are chapters here that would be interesting conversation for a board or staff. Hospitality is not entertainment, but sharing one’s human self with other humans. Can a church truly be hospitable? We may be welcoming, but hospitality demands a much more communal focus from the entire body. This book shares wise words from many angles to dee I found this book to be refreshing. Hospitality is such a counter cultural idea where I live, where we go about our busy lives and keep our doors locked. There are chapters here that would be interesting conversation for a board or staff. Hospitality is not entertainment, but sharing one’s human self with other humans. Can a church truly be hospitable? We may be welcoming, but hospitality demands a much more communal focus from the entire body. This book shares wise words from many angles to deepen our understanding of the spiritual practice, or actually way of life, of hospitality.

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