What ‘Come From Away’ Teaches Us About Hospitality
My homeland, Canada, comes off really well in Come From Away, which is just one reason it is my favorite musical. The scene where Newfoundlanders respectfully stand quietly as the U.S. news broadcasts a moment of silence for victims of 9/11 made me choke up, and not for the last time. Bring your tissues to this one, folks!
Come From Away is a snapshot of Canadian/U.S. relations at their best, a tale that, like our own binational denomination, involves both countries in profound ways. The Broadway smash, now on tour all over North America, is set on Sept. 11, 2001, and the few days afterward. It opens at a Tim Hortons in small Gander, Newfoundland, with townsfolk chatting over their coffee and Timbits, oblivious to the fact that they are about to become world famous for their hospitality.
Based on true events, the musical depicts how 6,700 passengers on 38 airplanes diverted from U.S. airspace after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon landed in Newfoundland. People from all ethnicities, cultures, and religions descend upon the good people of Gander, who must feed and shelter them and also tend to their fear and trauma. One character can’t get ahold of her son, a New York City firefighter, and others are frantic to reach family members.
Gander’s openheartedness beautifully lives into the Bible’s Greek word for hospitality: philoxenia, meaning “love for the stranger or foreigner.”
Hospitality is the antidote for another Greek word: xenophobia, or dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. Ali, an Egyptian Muslim, is wary around people who treat him as if he is a criminal, but the people of Gander accept him with kindness and grace. In one stirring scene, a gay man sings a Christian hymn from his childhood faith tradition that he felt had spurned him. This hymn is blended with a Hebrew song about shalom, sung by a Jew, and a Muslim song sung by Ali. To me, this seemed less like universalism and more like a gracious example of people of different faiths harmonizing together as they live as fellow human beings.
Come From Away is also one of the funniest, snappiest musicals I’ve ever seen (and I reviewed theater for 17 years for The Grand Rapids Press). One of the funniest lines comes when a friendly townsperson in a blue smock says to one of the newcomers, “Welcome to Walmart. Would you like to come to my house and take a shower?”
Whether crying or laughing, I was struck with the message of welcoming the stranger, whoever they might be and whenever they might appear. The word “hospital” is related to the word “hospitality,” and the townspeople of Gander bind up the wounds of the lost and hurting in some of their worst moments.
We too can take a page from the residents of Gander, who invited strangers and foreigners into their homes and hearts, just as Jesus asked us to do in Matthew 25:43. Like them, we can be a “hospital” for those God sends our way, whether they live next door or come from away.
By Dana Edwards
Reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Eleven-year-old Mae Moore lives in Jessup, Ga., with her parents and her older sister Shelby, who has a severe type of cerebral palsy.
When Hopewell Community Church offers an outdoor drive-thru prayer ministry for the community, Mae thinks about the unanswered prayers she’s prayed asking God to heal her sister.
Humorous, hopeful, and realistic about the issues faced by children raised in families where a sibling is medically fragile, this novel for middle school readers points to our God of all hope, who meets his children in their needs. Author Dana Edwards also effectively explores the effects of bullying, poverty, and financial stress on children, and she offers a profoundly human portrait of a pastor who has experienced tragic loss and who cares for his community. (B&H Kids)
Joining Jesus: Ordinary People at the Edges of the Church
By Moses Chung and Christopher Meehan
Reviewed by Agnes Mastin
This compilation of essays describes the efforts of Christians who model their ministries after the early church in Acts and Luke 10. The authors, both CRC employees, document the love Christians across North America have shown to their neighbors in out-of-the-ordinary outreach ministries.
They encourage readers to “join God in whatever he is already doing” and make the point that when churches fail to reach the people in ordinary ways, then it is time to do the unordinary and the simple things that convey the awe-inspiring magnificence of God’s love.
From coffee shop ministries to stone soup gatherings to just being a good neighbor, churches and individuals across Canada and the United States are finding what it means to join Jesus. (Cascade Books)
The Desert Island Discs Podcast
Reviewed by Adele Gallogly
On this BBC podcast, artists, politicians, musicians, and other high-profile “castaways” choose the eight musical tracks they would take with them to their mythical lonely isle. At the end of each episode they also get to pick one book and a “luxury item” to take along.
This show existed long before podcasts were popular; it began as a radio show in 1942. The host has changed over the years, as have some details of the format, but the fascinating depth of these conversations remains.
Spiritual beliefs and religious themes often arise in these music-inspired discussions, too.
Hymns and choral songs make regular appearances. In fact, a recent study revealed that the most chosen piece of music was Handel's Messiah, selected by 119 castaways. (BBC)
Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story (Audiobook)
Reviewed by Sam Gutierrez
In his memoir, Bono writes the story of U2 by telling one complete story through the lens of 40 different songs. In the audiobook, Bono reads his own words and begins each chapter by singing acoustic/simplified versions of the songs. The chapters are also filled with sound effects that enhance the story telling, and Bono is fantastic at reading his own words with nuance and feeling.
For fans of U2, this book will give the behind-the-scenes look they have been waiting a long time for, and they will not be disappointed. They’ll get an inside look at band members, recording sessions, marriage and family dynamics, friends, family, death, God, humanitarian work, and a myriad of reflections on politics, fame, fatherhood, and everything in between. (Knopf)
An Alternative School System: Education for Hope, by John E. Hull, traces the little-known history of an alternative school system erected in Canada by post-WWII Dutch Neo-Calvinist immigrants. (Johnehull.com)
Based on the Beloved Books by Louise Penny: Three Pines is a streaming series that follows Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he investigates cases beneath the idyllic surface of the Quebec village, finding long-buried secrets and facing a few ghosts of his own. (Amazon Prime)
What’s Love Got to Do With It?: In this British romantic comedy, a filmmaker decides to document her best friend’s journey toward arranged marriage. Starring Emma Thompson, Lily James, and Shazad Latif. (January, Working Title Films)
The Spare Speaks: In his own words (including narrating the audiobook version), Prince Harry tells about his life as the one second in line for succession to the British monarchy and about his marriage to Meghan Markle in his explosive new memoir, Spare. (Jan. 10, Random House)