Friday, April 08, 2011

Welcome. But who owns “home”?

Welcome Home is a Dave Dobbyn special, the first song on his 2005 Available Light. It was reputed to be written in response to a racist incident, in which a far-right group suggested Chinese migrants were not welcome in New Zealand.

The chorus is gorgeous: “Welcome home from the bottom of our hearts/from the bottom of our hearts.” It song then offers a number of important insights in regard to hospitality and welcoming the stranger.

1 – Honouring of migrant story

Tonight I am feeling for you/under the state of a strange land
You have sacrificed much to be here

These are the first words and in doing so, the song begins in a listening posture. It starts with the migrant, and desire to empathise. This leads to an honouring of the migrant journey, the recognition of sacrifice, that no matter how good it might be to move, it still means homesickness and breaking of relationship, of missing out of change, and not seeing parents grow old and children grow..

2 – Offering fresh possibilities

Out here on the edge/the empire is fading by the day/
And the world is so weary in war/maybe we’ll find that new way

This is quite profound, for it suggests that the current state of the “home” is not the best. It needs a new way. And thus the migrant is framed as a gift. With their coming, their might actually be a new way by which the old country might live, might learn, might grow.

3 – Suggesting a new practices

So welcome home, see i made a space for you now

And here the rubber hits the road. It’s one thing to say welcome. Some words.

It’s quite another whole set of realities to make a space. Space making is physical. Space making means the welcomer must move, must let themselves be disturbed in this act of space making.

Part of the difficulty is that different cultures perceive space making differently. A comment about an accent might be a joke one day, but on another day it can be perceived as a reminder of difference, an exclusive gesture.

Nevertheless it suggests that welcome is never just words. It must include the welcomer being willing to move, to deliberately enact gestures that the migrant understands as space making.

But at the root of this is the question of who owns, who defines “home.” The danger is that “home” means that relationships are always defined in binary

  • home-visitor
  • local-foreigner
  • mine-not yours

Theologically, it seems to me that Jesus left “home” in the Incarnation. Much ministry was done not at his home, in his place, but only as he experienced the “other” saying “welcome home.” – At Matthew’s house, in Zacchaues’s place, at Mary and Martha’s. But on the other hand, this was always done in Jesus home tongue, his language and his culture.

Should the church say “welcome home”? This has been the dominant ministry posture in Christendom. We are the host and we expect the world to come to us.

Then in a post-Christendom world I hear people rifting off the Prodigal Son, the church becomes the father, waiting for the culture, which has stomped off, getting ready to welcome the returning. “Welcome home.” The Luke 15 parables cluster around this theme. As I’ve written elsewhere, the lost sheep assumes the shepherd will bring the sheep home. But what would happen if the shepherd decided to make a new home, in the place where the lost sheep was?

But perhaps, if the church seeks Incarnation as a way of being, it is time for the church to become alien, migrant.  To give up saying welcome and go looking for welcome. To wonder who, if any, will make space for it? This is certainly the heart of Luke 10:1-12, in which the disciples are sent, speaking peace, to be reliant on the welcome and hospitality of another.

For further on this:
When home is a pain

Posted by steve at 11:59 AM