“Our stubborn belief in the bedrock of pre-ciousness of individuals ought never be taken for granted: it is not shared in large portions of the world, and it is frequently threatened by bigotry and intoler-ance here in America. It remains a distinctive, critical hallmark of our way to doing church.”
Last year, we joined a nationwide UU program called Soul Matters which creates monthly worship and small group resource packets around predetermined themes.
We begin the 2017-2018 church year with the theme of Welcome. Our faith, as Tim Owen-Towle states, is deeply connected to our first principle—the inherent worth and dignity of every person. To truly live this principle at this time in our country requires a level of groundedness and compassion that is hard to come by when people are feeling fearful and the country feels divided.
Somewhere in my reading or listening to the radio, I learned about The People’s Supper. The leaders of this project “aim to repair the breach in our interpersonal relationships across political, ideological, and identity differences, leading to more civil discourse.” The suppers began after the President’s inauguration as a response to a divided nation. The description continues, “This isn’t about a political party, or what is or isn’t happening in Washington. It’s about us, and our relationship to one another. Too often, we exist in echo chambers and see each other as monoliths: one-sided stereotypes who can be reduced to a single word or phrase.”
The supper hosts are given a facilitator guide that contains four questions. Two questions are:
- Describe a moment, recent or long passed, in which you’ve been made to feel unwelcome, unsafe, unworthy, and threatened.
- Describe a moment, recent or long passed, in which you were made to feel the opposite: in which you felt fully seen and heard and at ease.
Those who have never claimed a faith or church community as well as those who come from other faith traditions often speak of feeling fully seen and heard and at ease during their first few visits here. They feel seen as a person who has their own story and particular reason why they are looking for a community of faith. They feel heard as their theological doubts and questions as well as those about living a deeper life of purpose are welcomed. And they feel at ease knowing that ours is a faith that strives to be inclusive.
Theodore Parker, a nineteen century Unitarian minister and transcendentalist is quoted as saying we need to be a wide place as well as a warm one. Although our congregation took root by members of the First Unitarian, a Humanist beacon in the Midwest, we now have a greater continuum of faith belief ranging from Atheists to Buddhists to Christians. We create a beloved community when we listen carefully to one another and share our own beliefs and questions. It takes practice to come together and grapple with meaning without alienating others. Together, we continue to practice how to be the community we long to see in the greater world.
Ours is a covenantal faith based on the promises we make to one another. The depth and spirit of the commitments we make in this community differ from those of other areas of our lives. We are called to be mindful, open, curious, compassionate, reflective, and constantly working toward beloved community. My hope is that as we move through the year together, we can continue to practice radical welcome and hospitality and to explore how we want to be with each other here as well as in the community and the greater society.
Rev. Luara Smidzik