Fathom Mag

Toward a Life of Radical Welcome

A Q&A with Ashley Hales about her new book Finding Holy in the Suburbs: Living Faithfully in the Land of Too Much

Published on:
November 19, 2018
Read time:
3 min.
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How has your perception of life in the suburbs changed over time?

Having grown up in suburban evangelicalism, I absorbed the message that a faithful Christian life meant doing big things for God. The shorthand for significance meant moving overseas or working in an impoverished city center. Even as my sense of missional living increased wherever I lived, it was always cities that came up as the place for the greatest human flourishing. My husband and I even went overseas and moved to Scotland for seminary and grad school. 

Now, more than a decade later we find ourselves miles from where we grew up, planting a church in the suburbs. When we moved to the suburbs, I had to deal with the fact that this place wasn’t originally what I wanted. It turns out I’m in good company: so many biblical characters (Abraham, Moses, Esther, and Jesus to name a few) moved from comfort to follow God. They longed for a home and yet dug into the place they were. 

Why did you decide to write a book about living in suburbia? 

I wrote Finding Holy in the Suburbs to reckon with this disconnect many people have: that we’re living rather ordinary lives but feel we were meant to live extraordinary lives for God. We’ve connected our sense of mission and calling often more to where we live than to how we live where we do. Or, we’re unaware of how our places form our loves, for good or ill. 

What does Finding Holy in the Suburbs teach us about place? 

Finding Holy in the Suburbs shows how you can live a life of radical welcome and faithfulness right where you’re placed. I hope and pray that Finding Holy in the Suburbs helps to wake people up to how, what, why, and whom they love is actually deeply affected by place. I pray that through it all—no matter if we’re suburbanites or not—we will embody the glorious homecoming and welcome that Christ offers us to those around us. 

What is the main message in your book? 

Places form our loves and tell us what to hunger for. When we hunger for what the suburbs say is the “good life” (individualism, consumerism, safety, etc.) we will always come up empty. When we repent and live out of our belovedness, we will move toward our neighbors in hospitality, generosity, and shalom. 

When we repent and live out of our belovedness, we will move toward our neighbors in hospitality, generosity, and shalom.

What do you want readers to know and do about living holy lives where they are? 

I want readers to be empowered to stay put and start small right where they’re placed. I want them to take a good, hard look at how they’re being shaped by their places without even knowing it so that they can then see the goodness of God show up on their cul-de-sacs and in the school pickup line. I want readers to join together in book clubs to consider how to implement practices of welcome. I desire nothing less than transformation—not because my words are so great, but because God is a God who wants to meet all our hungers with himself right where we’re at. 

What do you hope readers do after reading Finding Holy in the Suburbs

I hope they:

  • Start to question how their place informs their loves. 
  • Read the book with others and discuss how it impacts their communities. 
  • Grow in hospitality, living for others, and get a wider vision for the kingdom of God in their neighborhood. 
  • Commit to staying locally grounded in community, church, and witness. 

Ashley Hales
Ashley Hales (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is a writer, speaker, and host of the Finding Holy podcast. She is the author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs and A Spacious Life: Trading Hustle and Hurry for the Goodness of Limits. Ashley is married to a pastor and the mother to four children.

Cover photo by Bruno Martins.

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