impersonal hospitality?

Thoughts about hospitality have been hounding me lately. I've strongly encouraged hospitality in the past, and there is definite biblical support for the practice. But I've struggled with the situations that arise in intentional communities concerning hospitality, situations we now find ourselves in the middle of.

Hospitality in the usual sense has to do with people that either are friends that want to come and visit you, or people in need of help, the poor or strangers that have no place to stay. In both of these cases I see the spiritual value of hospitality and the emotional motivation behind it. But in intentional communities there tends to be people that request to visit, not because they want to visit any of us personally, and not because they are in need of a place to stay, but because they want to "experience community" or are on a tour seeing different forms of such communal organizations. Because of the regularity of such requests a hospitality coordinator is usually assigned, who then tries to find housing and meal hosting for guests among different households in the community (unless there is some form of guest house or communal meals). So you end up with the rather strange situation of having guests that you did not invite and who are not coming to see you particularly. I'm finding it hard to muster much enthusiasm for this kind of hospitality.

I think part of the problem is the institutionalization of hospitality. Because the community has been made into a communal organization, both the approach of guests and the response of the hosts becomes less personal. Guests come not to see any particular persons but to see the organization. And (at least here) the individual hosts do not personally invite the guests that they want to welcome, but instead fill a more generalized hospitality function. Of course there are possibilities for personal connections in the actual hosting, but I think the institutional way it is arranged make these connections much less likely. As I've said before, institutions are not persons and so cannot love. And the more we depend on and conform to them the more we become like them.

So it's very important, I think, to preserve the personal nature of hospitality. We have prepared a place here for hospitality, so I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of it, but it seems important to resist being drawn into (or pressured into) the more institutional version of hospitality that appears in intentional communities.

This is just another example of the difference between the body of Christ and the organizational "bodies" that we create. In Christ's body there is no external form or structure for people to try to interact with impersonally, no hierarchy or standardization that separates us from one another as persons. The Spirit that connects us and gives the body its nature works only from within individuals. Through the love that only individual persons can give.