This study is seeking to establish a theology of hospitality as it applies to theological librarianship. Throughout world religions, there is a recognition that we are to love and care for the “other.” This paper will define the other for our society today and define a theology of hospitality starting with the way that Jesus demonstrated care for the marginalized in the society of his time. This paper will move forward to define the way that we see the other among us today. The goal is to define how I see hospitality playing a role in my ministry as a librarian in a theological seminary.
The first thing that this paper will do is to attempt to define what is meant when we talk about “the other.” The author will go on to establish how a theology of hospitality might be defined. Some aspects of the definition will include why a theology of hospitality is important, what are some obstacles to implementing such a theology, and what does this theology look like. This section of the paper will be researched through the use of articles and essays that demonstrate previous research to see what has been done by other theologians, what has been successful and what questions are left unanswered.
The next step will be to apply this research to the role of theological librarianship. This section of research will be done by consulting articles and essays to see what previous research has been done. I will also consult with some colleagues who participated in a panel discussion on the theology of hospitality at the 2012 Annual Conference of the American Theological Library Association. It is a result of this discussion that I became interested in pursuing this topic and trying to apply a theology of hospitality to my role as public services librarian in a seminary setting.
Hospitality has always been a part of the teachings of the church. The writer of the book of Hebrews states “do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2, NRSV). Jesus taught that we should feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, visit the sick and in prison. This ministry is not just for those who are part of our communities, but extends to the stranger among us who is in need.
As librarians, our role is to serve our patrons, whether they are those who attend our universities, seminaries, or live within the borders of our communities. The question that often comes with this service is how far do we go to serve? We know that it is a bad idea to give unauthorized medical, legal, or tax advice, but how far do we go to help our students with research? In a broader sense, how do we serve those in our wider communities who need a place to spend the day because they are homeless, or how should we help those who require help that is beyond our capacities?
I am hoping that through this research, I can define a theology of hospitality that will work within the community in which I serve as a librarian both for the members of my smaller community and for those who wander in from outside looking for some assistance.