Welcoming the Stranger: The 2016 Ministry with the Poor Experiential Training at Church and Community Development for All People, Columbus, Ohio

Welcoming the stranger is more than an act of kindness. Exhibiting radical hospitality is not for the sake of the unfamiliar person alone or a mere church growth strategy. Rather, to truly welcome the stranger is to create an environment of mutuality that has the potential to lead toward transformative ministry.

Bishop Gregory Palmer emphasized this point when he preached that “Jesus is the ultimate stranger and invites each one of us to be hospitable in his name.” Bishop Palmer proclaimed this word at the All People Conference 2016!: Welcoming the Stranger, this year’s annual Ministry with the Poor experiential training event held at the Church and Community Development for All People in Columbus on October 22-24, 2016.

The very composition of the attendees illustrated the power created when diverse people come together. Over 100 participants shared their wisdom with one another, including people from 14 states, 17 annual conferees, 5 jurisdictions, and 11 denominations. A cursory glance around the room revealed diversity in age, race, class, and gender. An accumulation of business cards revealed theological diversity. Yet, it was in the ways people identified as “different” that a commonality was found in the potential of doing ministry with people most unlike ourselves.

In a world where the default position is often scarcity or lack, Rev John Edgar offered an orientation of abundance that enables churches to live into God-given opportunity. In a church body that is still too often segregated, Rev Gregory Kendrick and April Sunami provided a framework of poetic leadership and art that can lead toward multicultural worship. In a culture that exhorts individualism, Bishop Minerva Carcaño proclaimed, “Our salvation is intrinsically tied to welcoming the stranger.”

While the focus of workshops and the sharing of participants invited broader thought on what it means to welcome the stranger, the most powerful example did not come from any of the identifiable training leaders, but from Katheryn Arndt, one of those who came to the training to learn.

I had met Kathryn Arndt four years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico as Central UMC began an outdoor worship service called Community of Hope. In becoming part of Community of Hope, Kathryn did not merely share in meals and participate in worship; she became a leader. Although living on limited income herself, Kathryn fed others who were hungry and offered hope to people who faced housing insecurity as she had. Over the last four years, she has become an advocate, particularly for homeless women.

In reflecting on the Welcoming the Stranger experiential training, Kathryn said, “It was like being on top of a mountain, seeing the big picture, the possibilities, before going back to the valley to engage again.” But it was witnessing the transformation in Kathryn’s life, now dedicated to being in transformational ministry with others, that most clearly illustrated to me that possibilities are abundant when we open our eyes, hearts, and hands to welcome the stranger.

Editor's Note: This piece was adapted from the author's missionary blog,














Rev. Greg Henneman

The Rev. Gregory S. Henneman, a Church and Community Worker missionary commissioned through the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, serves at the Church and Community Development for All People in Columbus, Ohio. At C4AP he directs the Health Eating and Living (H.E.A.L.) programs and manages the Fresh Market.

About This Blog

Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.