Monday, May 27, 2013

The Promise of Hospitality – First summit of the Hospitality Initiative in Southeastern Michigan

“The Promise of Hospitality,” held May 3-4 at Oakland University, was intended not as a culmination of the interfaith, Michigan-based Hospitality Initiative’s efforts to date, but as a kick-off for the initiative’s future of hospitality education and outreach focused on helping people adapt and flourish in an increasingly more diverse multi-faith world.

We live in a world in which it is becoming less and less likely that we, as average people, will live our lives without having any significant encounters—from social, to business, to education, to giving and receiving services—with people of faiths and cultural traditions we are unfamiliar with. This creates the necessity of a revised concept of hospitality that aims to eliminate the fear of people unlike ourselves, and to emphasize the importance of extending hospitality and friendship first, rather than feel suspicious until we know more.

“The Promise of Hospitality” summit was the first big event of the Hospitality Initiative. About seventy-five people attended the Friday evening introductory session, which included a welcome by keynote speaker and Hospitality Initiative co-founder Charles Mabee, and a keynote address by Professor Richard Kearny of Boston University. Kearny set the stage for Saturday’s line-up of all-day presentations, introducing the concept of “The Promise of Hospitality in a Multi-Faith World.”

The Saturday main event, attended by about fifty people, included over a dozen presentations by business, medical, education, and communications professionals, as well as by faith leaders and lay-persons of various religious traditions, who discussed the role of hospitality in their spiritual communities, in business, in education, and in society in general.

This line-up included several names familiar the southeastern Michigan interfaith community, such as WISDOM co-founder and past-president Gail Katz, Rabbi Dorit Edut of the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network (DION), public relations professional and author Lynne Golodner, writer and business professional Padma Kuppa, and Bup Mee Sunim of Muddy Water Zen in Royal Oak. Hospitality Initiative co-founders Olaf Lidums, Charles Mabee, and John Suggs gave remarks, as did representatives from Oakland University, including Dr. Richard Pipan of the School of Education, Dean Mohan Tanniru of the School of Business, and a group of Oakland University students.

Sergio Mazza, who has represented various business and educational institutions, discussed “Hospitality: The Promise for Business in a Multi-Faith World;” Dr. Sandor Goodhart, professor of English and Jewish Studies at Purdue University, talked about “G/hosts, Strangers, and Enemies in a Multi-Faith World;” and Abbot Andrew Marr discussed “Mimetic Hospitality,” the multiple ways in which hospitality has been defined and expressed.

Introductions to the role of hospitality in different faith traditions included Judaism (Gail Katz and Rabbi Dorit Edut), the Bahá’í Faith (John Suggs), different faith traditions in India (Padma Kuppa), American Hinduism (Vineet Chander), Christianity (Dr. George Alcser), Unitarianism (Rev. Dr. Kathy Hurt), Islam (Imam Achmat Salie), Buddhism (Bup Mee Sunim), and Mormonism (Karin Dains).

The day-long seminar was followed by a reception at First Congregational Church, including a delicious dinner provided by Rx Catering and a lively musical performance by Maggid Steve Klaper and Brother Al Mascia, OFM, of the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley, Michigan.

Sponsors of the Hospitality Initiative Summit 2013 included First Congregational Church of Rochester, Michigan, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, The Bharatiya Temple of Troy, the Bahá’í Faith, Saint John Fisher Chapel, Agape Community, the Interfaith Leadership Council, Meemic, WISDOM, Oakland University, First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, and Gail and Bob Katz.

You can learn more about the Hospitality Initiative and its upcoming events at

Image: "Elemental Garden," by Karla Joy Huber, 2010; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, Sharpie pen, and highlighter

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