Weaving the Web: Ever More Welcoming

“How shall we live? Be welcoming to all.”

Mechthild of Magdeburg

I learned today that the original meaning of the word “welcome” is “desirable guest.” What an interesting reversal!: that the reason we offer welcome to someone is because they are a desirable person to have as our guest. It’s not a favor that we the hosts do for guests, but a gift we give ourselves.

That’s a great way to think of the Welcoming Congregation, the designation we earned many years ago and continually renew. We proactively welcome LGBTQIA+ folks like me less because they need this congregation than because they are guests greatly to be desired.

No, but I’m serious. The exhibit that our Welcoming Congregation Renewal team is bringing here beginning on March 31 explains exactly why. It is called Authentic Selves, and it is a series of portraits of trans and nonbinary people and their families, put together by Family Diversity Projects. People with the courage to be true to themselves, even when that authenticity has been met with rejection, judgment, and even abuse, are wonderful people to have in one’s life. The courage, the ability to be ourselves, that they draw forth from us makes them very desirable guests.

By the way, the book version of Authentic Selves–which will of course be available for sale at UUCPA during the exhibit–is published by Skinner House Books, which is owned by . . . the Unitarian Universalist Association. Doesn’t it make you proud to be a UU?

The plan is for the exhibit to open at UUCPA on Sunday, March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility. I’ll be leading our service that day: a service about authenticity and what it means for our whole and real selves to be welcome in a community. One way you can help with our Welcoming Congregation Renewal is to join me in leading that service, especially if you are trans or nonbinary or someone in your family is (and they give you permission to speak about your life together). Another way is to help present the exhibition: hang the photographs, or plan the opening event, or promote the event within and far beyond UUCPA’s walls. If you’re interested in that or any other aspect of making UUCPA welcoming to people of all genders, gender identities, and sexual orientations, please let me or the Welcoming Congregation team know. We’d love to have more folks on the team, especially those with LGBTQIA+ identities. And if you just want to come to the service (and invite a friend), that’s great too.

“This is the mission of our faith: to teach the fragile art of hospitality . . . ”

Rev. William Schulz

Also, on February 4, I’m acting on a plan originally hatched in the spring of 2020 (remember that spring?) and inviting all LGBTQIA+ folks out to brunch after the service. If that’s you, please consider this your invitation, and reply to me via email for the details.

Of course, the desire to be wholly welcome for who we are, without compromising our authenticity, is not limited to people of marginalized identities. All of us want communities that welcome our whole selves and see us as people of dignity and worth, just the way we are. Making UUCPA such a place is part of the mission of our Membership & Growth Committee. When I returned to UUCPA this month and asked Rev. Cat what she had observed during my sabbatical, she told me that she really noticed a marked increase in the friendliness of the congregation. More people have been making sure that newcomers, in particular, receive a warm welcome and are made to feel at home here. What a wonderful thing to hear!

Ask yourself: “What can I do
to make others feel at home here?”

I am very sorry to report that someone who has helped us welcome people for the past few years, our Membership Engagement Coordinator, John Wright, resigned his position this week. Not only will we miss John’s warm, humorous, kind, and honest presence, but his absence means that our ever-growing spirit of welcome will be needed more than ever. Will you take a moment now and ask yourself: “What can I do, this Sunday or the next time I engage with people at UUCPA, to make others feel at home here?” And I would love to hear the answer.