Yesterday I attended a funeral service in a Christian church in a small town. The parking lot was packed. People of all ages squeezed into pews, sitting elbow-to-elbow to make room for all. The love and respect in the worship space were tangible.

Open DoorWhen the pastor spoke, he articulated the spirit that I felt in the church. He talked about hospitality, and how it creates a space for mourning.

He urged the assembly to embrace their feelings about the death of their loved one – to grieve, to celebrate a life well lived, to be angry, peaceful, joyful, sad. The pastor didn’t suggest that they should just be happy that their loved one was now with God, or that they should simply be stoic.

It’s hard to let go of the people we love. In times of grief, it’s hard to believe the psalmist’s words–that our despair can be turned into a dance. But the small-town church was a space where people were free to bring all their emotions to God, trusting that the Spirit would be with them, offering consolation and healing and hope.

The church service reminded me of the unselfish nature of hospitality. Hospitality has no hidden agenda. It has no answers or quick fixes. It is open to mystery. It lets people take their time.