Tantur Community & Hospitality
“On a hill in Jerusalem, near Bethlehem”
Community is shared life. Christian community is shared life around a common faith and celebration around the person of Christ. An ecumenical Christian community is a shared life with greater diversity and differences reflecting the history of the Christian church with all of its debates and divisions, yet nonetheless expressing a desire for greater understanding of these divisions but still finding the essential core of a shared life in Christ.
In all four of the Christian gospels there is one continuous thread of the “unexpected” that needs to be at the heart of the Tantur ecumenical community. In the gospels it is the thread of who receives the gospel invitation to “eat and drink” with the Lord and who dismisses it. It is the thread of the outsider, the rejected, and the morally reprehensible who are said to enter the kingdom of God before their more righteous peers. Jerusalem is a tough town because it is the seat of political and religious power. In the religious sphere of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it is the place of least tolerance because everyone is under multiple microscopes and scrutiny. Nothing goes unnoticed. Divisions run deep and historical memory is completely intact.
Within this context sits Tantur on a hill in the outskirts of Jerusalem near Bethlehem. Tantur’s vision of community is rooted in hospitality to the other without defining who the other is. The other may be a bishop or a university president, or an atheist or agnostic. He or she may be a local or an international. We do not get to choose the other, but we do get to receive and invite her or him inside our doors. Hospitality must also show great respect and dignity to the other. Arrogance, hatred, prejudice and dominance are the enemies to community at Tantur. Real community also does not minimize our own religious and political differences. We do not pretend to be something we are not. But at the end of the day, our sense of a shared humanity and a shared world with shared struggles always is larger than everything else.
This is the real definition of ecumenism and it is desperately needed in all places and at all times lest instead of enjoying a common meal together, we in fact eat each other in our vain struggle to survive. Community is the paradox of losing oneself to find oneself, of becoming poor to gain riches of another sort, if only for a short period of time, “on a hill in Jerusalem, near Bethlehem.”