Come, Come Whoever You Are: Radically Welcoming

. . . we are becoming a
radically welcoming congregation.

Vision Statement of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett

Like many in our community, I was actively involved in writing our vision statement, and in the difficult conversations over this line of the vision statement.  Were we saying too much, going too far?  What would people think of when they heard the word “radically?” We wrestled with the ideas, the feelings.  We listened.  And we ultimately embraced it.

That embrace came in more difficult ways for some than others.  I embraced it early, and now I find myself pondering over it again–not as something that I wish we had not said, but in the realization that it creates for me a challenge–a challenge to try and live into.

What does it mean for me to be radically welcoming?  When we sing “Come, come whoever you are” do I REALLY mean “whoever?”  I’m finding places of hesitation within me, and some for good reason.  I hesitate over someone who thinks that all Muslims are terrorists.  I balk at the idea of someone who wants to jail members of the LBGTQ communities or who believes that people of color are inferior to whites.  I am in community with and love people who belong to those communities and therefore, in my own loving and friendship, not only are people dear to me implicated by a certain perceived danger, but so am I.

So am I.  There is where being radically welcoming challenges me the most.  I have not come to terms with what being radically welcoming might require of me, and that unknown is both intellectually and emotionally disturbing.

I spent some time during the Easter weekend in a Racism workshop at UUCG.  I spent various amounts of time in a FB conversation about the statistics of white privilege.  Statistics.  Measures.  Numbers.  Evidence.  Most of the conversation was made up of white people talking about which words we use (we are willing to use, we will not use, we don’t like to use, we are offended by, we are angry about, we should use) to describe our own role in the racial injustices of this nation.  I KNOW that I have black friends who were watching this very conversation, and I find that deeply disturbing.  Here we go again.  We white folks cannot get past the words so that we can move on to the real discussion of what we are gong to DO about the issues of racial equity . . .

. . . and we are radically welcoming.

I think what is truer for me–and probably for our community–is that we have agreed to struggle with what it means to be radically welcoming, and some days we might not want to struggle too much.  Some would call that very dynamic a privileged position.  We can choose when we want to struggle and when we do not.

It makes me uncomfortable.  I think one of the realities that I am coming to is that discomfort comes with radical welcomes.

Bob Patrick


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