Like many of our most important words, “hospitality” can carry a range of meanings. In contrast to the slick imagery of the hospitality industry and the parading of our good taste in Martha Stewart-style entertaining, Jesus focused hospitality on welcoming the poor, taking the lowest seat at the table, and being known for eating with sinners (Luke 14:1–15:2). In scripture, hospitality is not a gracious creation of space for others to appreciate our magnanimity, but a love of neighbor that does not rest on in-group status or social standing. It receives others because they are created and cared for by God.
The essays in this issue grew out of a multi-year project at the Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin University, with financial support from the Issachar Fund. The result, called the Civic Hospitality Project, focuses on hospitality as a public virtue and what that might have to do with how we learn to participate in society. The first article provides some background to the project and a brief introduction to the free resources that we created for schools. You can explore those resources at www.civichospitality.com.
Our project team drew together expertise from theology, political science, education theory, and the classroom. Given the various meanings that hospitality can have, we wanted our work to have a clear theological grounding. Matthew Kaemingk of Fuller Seminary, author of a recent book on hospitality and Muslim immigration, led this aspect of our conversation. In this issue, his article similarly grounds us in a biblical theology of hospitality. Kevin den Dulk and Micah Watson were our political science experts, and their essays here offer insights into facets of the political and social context in which we are educating that make learning hospitality a vital need. My own work focuses on discussions of faith and teaching, and in my second contribution here I survey several ways of linking hospitality and schooling. Our teacher team consisted of Kelli Boender, Erik Ellefsen, David Tsui, and Mark VanderWerf. The essays here by Kelli and Mark highlight practical ways in which reflecting on hospitality has shaped their teaching choices and strategies.
We hope that these essays offer a way into conversations about Christian hospitality and education that are grounded theologically, examine our context carefully, take time to reflect on the nature of education, and yield classroom approaches that can be life-giving for us, for our students, and for the communities to which they will contribute.