Hospitality to the stranger : the experience of Christian Churches in the resettlement of African refugees to the United States
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This thesis explores the role of constituent congregations of Church World Service (CWS) in the process of resettling refugees in the U.S. It is based upon case studies built around a series of interviews conducted with members of three congregations who sponsored African families for resettlement in Minnesota. Reflecting upon the experiences of those interviewed, the discourse considers the efficacy of refugee resettlement as a means for Christian congregations to extend hospitality to strangers. The thesis explores the broader theme of Christian hospitality as a particular activity of the church. Hospitality is approached using the scriptural theme of welcoming the stranger as it is taken up by contemporary theologians. Christine Pohl, author of Making Room, is regarded as a leading authority on hospitality. Much of her research is based on the work of Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities. This thesis suggests that Pohl’s treatment lacks both a usable definition of hospitality and a sufficient theological framework in which to locate it. In redressing these omissions, Pohl’s work is examined in light of Vanier in order to establish an understanding of what comprises a particularly Christian approach to hospitality. Finally, the thesis proposes that as hospitality is understood as an act instituted by the person of Christ and imbued by the Holy Spirit, it is to be considered an act constitutive of the Church itself. Therefore it is an act necessary to the life of the Church as the Body of Christ. While contemporary research engages with hospitality as such an act, little work has been undertaken how it can be applied at the congregational level. CWS’s model of refugee sponsorship provides congregations with the tangible means by which they may offer hospitality to strangers.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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